23 May 2018
RMT Press Office:
As services collapse into chaos RMT demands publication of contract documentation as it becomes clear that Northern Rail get paid whether they run services or not.
RAIL UNION RMT today demanded full disclosure of all the contract documentation on the crisis-hit Northern Rail franchise as it becomes increasingly clear that the German-owned Arriva outfit still get paid by the British taxpayer whether they run services or not.
The breaking scandal of taxpayer bail outs for the basket-case Arriva Rail North has come on the eve of the latest phase of strike action over guards and safety on Northern trains with the union pointing out that ARN will even get compensated from the public purse during industrial action - meaning they have no incentive whatsoever to settle the dispute.
Last week Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham raised in a letter to Transport Secretary of State Chris Graying that there is a maximum cap of £50,000 per month for fines for cancellations by Arriva Rail North. Given the murky and secretive world of all rail franchises the figures in the contract are blank but RMT knows from other disputes that it is normal for franchise holders to be reimbursed by the taxpayer during industrial action. It is also clear that if the company has decided it is cheaper to cancel trains and pay the pitiful level of fines, which barely dent their profits, rather than hire appropriate levels of staff then the taxpayer has to be told why.
It is the same story with other train firms up and down the country with compensation and public subsidy payments to train operators shrouded in a fog of mystery, redaction and obfuscation. Whether it is compensation to cover losses during industrial action, or a cap on losses because they cannot meet their projected income targets, this is the railways version of the banking crisis where profits are privatised and losses borne by the taxpayer.
Passengers have no way of knowing if the contract is now in default but when the Manchester Mayor says Arriva Rail North cancelled over 2,500 trains in April it is clearly time for the full contract documentation to be published and held up to public scrutiny.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“With the continuing chaos on Northern Rail services this week RMT is demanding that the full contract documentation be published and held up to scrutiny so that we can all see just how much they are being bunged from the public purse. The union believes that it is actually cheaper for the company to run shoddy services, or no services at all, and absorb the pitiful levels of fines rather than meet the terms of the contract. That is the one way ticket to the bank of private rail franchising in Britain writ large.
“We are challenging Chris Grayling and Arriva to publish all the redacted documentation. If they have nothing to hide then they will have nothing to fear from full public scrutiny.
“Arriva Rail North will never see the need to sit round the table and talk seriously with RMT as long as their sugar daddy, Chris Grayling keeps either capping their losses or subsidising their failure with taxpayers money.
"On the eve of the latest phase of industrial action RMT is once again appealing for common sense to prevail. German-owned Northern Rail want to run half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately.
"RMT has agreed arrangements in Wales and Scotland that enshrine the guard guarantee. If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to have safe rail services it should be good enough for the rest of Britain.
“The union remains ready for talks.”