Fighting for public railways

Submitted by Matthew on 1 August, 2012 - 2:37

Rail unions took their campaign against the McNulty Report, a new government plan to massively cut railworkers jobs and pay while increasing fares, to South Yorkshire recently. Craig Johnston, relief regional organiser for the Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT)’s northern region, spoke to Dave Harris.

Britain’s railways are a mess — they have been since John Major’s discredited Tory Government privatised them in the late 90s. In Britain we have some of the highest train fares in Europe with the least amount of electrification and high speed rail lines compared to our comparator countries.

Independent research has calculated that every year around £1.2billion goes out of the industry as a result of dividends to shareholders, payments and costs caused by the fragmentation of the industry — a fragmentation that happened at privatisation. If this privatisation nonsense was stopped there could be an 18% reduction in train fares.

Research has also shown that private sector investment is only 1% of all investment in the privatised railway industry — the rest is public investment or underwritten by the public sector.

The last Labour government recognised there was a problem with the cost of rail so they engaged Sir Roy McNulty to commission a report on the industry.

However, it seems that Labour government decided not to set McNulty a remit of looking at the costs of privatisation and fragmentation and the potential benefits of renationalisation but to look at “efficiencies” instead.

He has come up with a cynical piece of work that seeks to make huge cuts to front line rail staff whilst continuing to allow the privatisation gravy train to proceed at full speed with director bonuses, shareholder dividends and never-ending avoidable costs associated with the fragmentation of the industry and administering the shambles.

Rail workers are facing a massive assault on our industry. Following on from McNulty’s odious report, proposals are now being drawn up to get rid all staff on trains except for drivers; close station ticket offices and replace front line staff with machines that are often “out of order”; axe front line station staff who assist passengers and make our stations safe; decimate what is left of the train catering services, reducing the quality of train travel and the total travel experience; cut back on proper track inspections.

RMT and the other rail unions, supported by the TUC, have launched a high profile campaign — “Action for Rail — People before profit”. That’s why rail workers were out protesting in South Yorkshire recently, outside Sheffield railway station where we took our campaign to the city where Nick Clegg is an MP, and in Doncaster where Ed Miliband is a local MP.

We’re fighting to defend rail services, safety and jobs, but there is another issue. McNulty also proposes huge fare increases. In that respect, whether you are a rail worker or rail passenger you have a serious interest in supporting this campaign.

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