23 September 2015
RMT Press Office
Rail UNION RMT will be launching a new phase of the campaign to put passengers before profit on Northern Rail and Transpennine Express Trains in Stockport this Friday – 25th September – at a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
The event will take the union fight right to the heart of the shadowy “Rail North” operation and will kick off a round of protests around the Tory Conference in Manchester, exposing the lies and hype around George Osbornes “Northern Powerhouse” claims.
Britain’s largest rail union has said that the promises of a Northern Power House is fast becoming a sick joke with a new warning that thousands of skilled rail jobs and passenger safety are under threat in the North.
Following the cancellation of rail electrification plans in the North, the union had said that the latest threat to jobs comes in proposals for the new Northern and Transpennine Express rail franchises due to start on 1st April. The franchises will be jointly managed by a new body “Rail North” - chaired by Sir Richard Leese - and comprising of representatives of 29 northern councils / combined authorities and the Department for Transport.
In a letter to Rail North Councillors the union has warned train guards will be axed from rail services across the north resulting in “Driver Only Trains.” The letter states,
“at the moment railway regulations guarantee that passenger’s in the North always have a Guard / Conductor on their train. In addition to the driver, passengers know there will always be a highly trained Guard to protect the safe operation of the train and deal with emergencies, such as fire, derailments and driver incapacity. The Guard also provides general assurance to passengers, ticket and travel advice and revenue protection.” Astonishingly the proposed rail franchise agreements mean passengers will no longer have this protection.”
The union also warns that there is no guarantee that current ticket offices and station staffing will be retained on the new franchise.
Over 12,000 passengers have already written to protest against the cuts and in polling three quarters have expressed concern about safety on trains if guards are removed. In the letter the Union has called on Rail North Councillors to also oppose the cuts warning
The union will launch the latest phase of its campaign with a protest outside a meeting of the Greater Manchester Combined authority at Stockport Town Hall, on 25th September at 10.00am The Greater Manchester authority is a key member of Rail North.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“According to Rail North’s own estimates passenger demand for the North’s railway will soar by 50% over the next fifteen years. This will also mean a huge increase in revenues which should be used to take on more, much needed rail staff, not cut them.
“Rail North also needs to speak out against the Region being last in the queue for decent rail services, new rolling stock and electrification. Good, modern communication links are essential for passengers, the economy of the North and our local Communities. Councillors should also be supporting the opening of new routes and opposing the government’s proposals to scrap the Transpennine Express services from Windermere, Barrow-in-Furness and Blackpool North.”
“ The union is sending out the message that it is not only passenger safety and service that will be affected, so will our economy and communities. Thousands of decent rail jobs will be under threat, deskilled and casualised. Cuts to rail jobs are always a false economy and make a nonsense of the Government’s hot air about a “Northern Power House.”
Note to editors:
Key points in the latest phase of the RMT campaign:
- Northern franchise bidders have been told that Guards must be axed on at least 50% of rail services and instead trains will be “Driver Control Operated.” What this means in practice is widespread Driver Only Operation, because under these new arrangements there will no longer be a requirement for a guard to be on every train
- The RMT campaign is focussed on the 29 Councils that make up a new body called “Rail North.” Through Rail North councils and councillors now have significant control of railways locally.
- One of Rail North’s first big decisions will be to help determine with the government the rail franchise agreements for Northern Rail and Transpennine Express Trains services.
- Currently, there are no guarantees that ticket offices will be kept open. And no safeguards that stations will have properly trained and directly employed station staff to help passengers.
- On the Transpennine Express franchise there is no guarantee for passengers that Guards will be retained.
- Passengers pay the most expensive fares in Europe and in the last five years Northern Rail and TPE have paid out almost half a billion pounds to shareholders.
The full list of Regional campaigning events is as follows:
*FRIDAY 25th SEPTEMBER 2015 – GREATER MANCHESTER COMBINED AUTHORITY
Protest outside the council meeting – STOCKPORT TOWN HALL, Edward Street, STOCKPORT – 10am – Meet Outside the main entrance
*SUNDAY 4th OCTOBER 2015 – MANCHESTER – NATIONAL TUC DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE TORIES – Assemble 12 noon, Oxford Road (ALL SAINTS PARK) Manchester – Rally and March
*TUESDAY 6th OCTOBER 2015 – RAIL NORTH LOCAL AUTHORITIES MEETING – (TIME AND VENUE TO BE CONFIRMED LATER)
*WEDNESDAY 7th OCTOBER 2015 – SHEFFIELD CITY REGION
Protest outside the Sheffield City Region Meeting, SHEFFIELD TOWN HALL, Pinstone Street, Sheffield – 1pm – Meet at the front of the Town Hall
*THURSDAY 8th OCTOBER 2015 – CITY OF YORK COUNCIL
Protest outside of the City of York Council Meeting – the Guildhall, YORK – 5.30 pm – Meet at the front of the Guildhall.
*FRIDAY 9th OCTOBER 2015 – WEST YORKSHIRE COMBINED AUTHORITY TRANSPORT COMMITTEE
Protest outside the West Yorks combined authority transport committee meeting – Wellington House, Leeds City Centre – Meet Outside of Wellington House at 10am
*FRIDAY 16th OCTOBER 2015 – LIVERPOOL CITY REGION
Protest outside of the meeting of the LIVERPOOL CITY REGION – Town Hall, High Street, LIVERPOOL – 4pm – Meet outside then Town Hall
*THURSDAY 22nd OCTOBER 2015 – LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL PRESTON
Protest outside Lancashire County Council meeting – Meet 12.30 pm outside County Hall Preston
*MONDAY 2nd NOVEMBER 2015 – NATIONAL TUC DEMONSTRATION AGAINST TORY ANTI-TRADE UNION LAWS - LONDON – 11.30 a.m. Westminster Central Hall, London – followed by lobby of MP’s
*THURSDAY 12TH NOVEMBER 2015 – CUMBRIA COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING – Kendal, Cumbria
Protest outside the meeting of Cumbria County Council, Council Headquarters, Kendal, LA9 4RQ at 9.00 am
*TUESDAY 17th NOVEMBER 2015 – NORTH EAST COMBINED AUTHORITY – (time and venue to be confirmed)
*THURSDAY 19th NOVEMBER 2015 – DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL MEETING
Protest outside of Darlington Borough Council - meet outside Darlington Council offices at 5.00 pm
*FRIDAY 20TH NOVEMBER 2015 – WEST YORKSHIRE COMBINED AUTHORITY – LEEDS
Protest outside the meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority – 10.00 am. – Meet outside Wellington House, Leeds City Centre, Leeds