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Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary has said "we want to upgrade our railways, make them digital-fit for the 21st century. We also simultaneously need the working practices to come out of the 20th century - we can't have a digital railway, and sort of steam age working practices going alongside of it."
In practice, this is what he is proposing:
- Closures of ticket offices across the country and the combination of retail, customer services and operational roles at stations. Ticket offices are vital for elderly and disabled passengers and for people with hearing or sight impairment. Whilst less staff on stations will lead to our railways becoming a muggers paradise.
- Revising the role and responsibility of the guard/conductor/train manager along with revisions to catering grades’ role. Safety-critical staff on trains are vital to its safe running, particularly in the event of the driver being incapacitated.
- 7-day working as mandatory in all train operators. Our members will lose any sense of a healthy work/life balance leading to overwork and fatigue.
- New grading structures, salaries and roles. Meaning new entrants to the railway will be working for less money and with no realistic prospect of retirement.
- Lower pay, longer hours contracts. In other words, work longer and harder for less money.
- Proposals on the Railway Pension Scheme that will change retirement age, contributions and benefits, diluting value while paying more.
- A complete restructure of the Maintenance function with fundamental changes to working practices, rostering, competency, organisation and other measures.
- Productivity and technology measures for signallers.
- Stations – there remains lack of clarity on the future role of Network Rail station staff in the plans of the two halves of the sector.
All of this is underpinned by an as yet un-stated number of job cuts in both sections of the industry.
Meanwhile' British commuters are spending up to five times as much of their salary on season tickets than our continental counterparts whilst the train operators profits go to 7 owning groups owned by foreign state rail companies, meaning that it will subsidise transport systems in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and China. The other 50% of train operator profits will go to Go-Ahead and FirstGroup’s investors, mainly a group of 13 major asset management funds, some of whom have holdings in both companies.
Last year, Train companies paid out £800m to shareholders.