21 July 2020
RMT Press Office:
RMT ramps up campaign to halt privatisation and driverless trains as Government coup takes over Transport for London
TUBE UNION RMT today wrote to Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps demanding that the government come clean on plans to privatise London Underground as part of its takeover of Transport for London.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State announced the names of the two government appointees who will report on TfL’s finances and also set out the terms of reference for a wide-ranging review that puts it in effective control of London’s transport system.
The review will include not only looking for ‘efficiency savings’ and promoting driverless trains, as previously reported, but will also open the door to privatisation by looking at ‘evidence and options for more fundamental changes’ including ‘any opportunities that alternative operating models could bring over the longer term, including consideration of structures and governance’.
RMT’s letter highlights the disastrous history of previous privatisations, not least on the Underground, accuses the government of trying to exploit a crisis in the name of repeating failed experiments and calls on the Secretary of State to rule out any operating models that entail privatisation, PFIs, PPPs or any other variant of private sector takeover.
The union also warned that members would be united in opposing any attempt to make keyworkers, who have worked heroically throughout the pandemic, pay for another crisis not of their making.
In the letter, Senior Assistant General Secretary Mick Lynch says:
“As this pandemic has made abundantly clear, privatisation has been a disaster for taxpayers, public and workers alike and we are still living with, and paying for, its consequences.
“You must know that RMT members will be absolutely united in opposing and fighting any attempted privatisation of the tube.
"Workers on the tube have put their lives on the line day in, day out to keep the Underground running throughout the worst crisis since the Second World War and they are not going to stand by while your government exploits this crisis in the interests of big business at their expense.”
Notes to Editors
The full text of the letter from RMT to the Secretary of State for Transport:
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
21 July 2020
Clarification of terms of reference of TfL review and London Underground
I’m writing to you to request that you urgently clarify the government’s position in relation to the review of Transport for London’s operating model.
In your statement yesterday you announced that the review was necessary to avoid any repeat of what you described as the ‘drastic action’ you took in providing ‘extraordinary funding and finance’ to support Transport for London. As you know, Transport for London’s finances have been disastrously affected by the consequences of the - correct – decision to introduce a lockdown and discourage anyone but essential keyworkers from using public transport and the Underground in particular during the pandemic.
The fact that TfL is totally dependent on revenue from passenger fares is of course in large part a consequence of a previous Conservative government’s decision to remove the last operating grant from TfL, leaving London’s public transport system unusually vulnerable to movements in passenger numbers.
Yet the terms of reference announced by your department yesterday make no acknowledgement of these facts and instead raise the spectre that your government is attempting to exploit a crisis not of TfL’s making in the name of a failed ideology. The terms of reference published yesterday say that the review will examine ‘evidence and options for more fundamental changes that could put TfL in a fully sustainable financial position by the end of the current business plan period (2024/25) and include within this a ‘review of the current operating model and whether there are any opportunities that alternative operating models could bring over the longer term, including consideration of structures and governance’.
I am asking you to make a clear statement that the review will not include any alternative operating model that entails any privatisation and or PFI /PPP or other additional private sector vehicles for London Underground assets, infrastructure or operations which are currently publicly owned or operated.
As you know, London Underground is a public sector success story. The story of previous governments’ attempts to privatise the Underground has been one of unmitigated disaster that cost the taxpayer hundred of millions to bail out. If you are serious about putting TfL’s finances on a sustainable footing over the long term and playing a key role in economic growth and tackling air pollution you will rule out any further attempt to privatise London Underground assets, infrastructure or operations and guarantee adequate operational grant and infrastructure investment.
As this pandemic has made abundantly clear, privatisation has been a disaster for taxpayers, public and workers alike and we are still living with, and paying for, its consequences. You must know that RMT members will be absolutely united in opposing and fighting any attempted privatisation of the tube. Workers on the tube have put their lives on the line day in, day out to keep the Underground running throughout the worst crisis since the Second World War and they are not going to stand by while your government exploits this crisis in the interests of big business at their expense.
I look forward to your response at the earliest opportunity,
Senior Assistant General Secretary, RMT