Category Archives: Railways

Why is the Transport Secretary trying to force ‘reforms’ on unions that want better pay?

Mick Lynch: he’s frustrated because the rail companies and Network Rail say they don’t have the power to negotiate meaningfully with him over pay and safety conditions for RMT Union members.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper reckons rail unions need to accept “reforms” that would free up money for pay rises.

Why?

On the Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, he said: “It is the reforms that free up the savings that then unlock the ability for the companies to make an offer to the trade unions on pay.”

But that is to assume no more money could be brought in – and that is a political choice by the Tory government.

He also said: “I do not have a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money to throw at this problem.”

And he doesn’t, because taxpayers’ money doesn’t pay for any public services at all. Public money – created by the government – does. It’s time our politicians stopped trying to hoodwink us with this lazy lie.

The government can very easily create as much money as is needed to provide a “proper seven-day rail network” – also Harper’s words, and why doesn’t the UK have that network any more since privatisation anyway?

Taxation relieves inflationary pressures that may be created by investing money into public services – and may be used by progressive governments to re-balance the gap between the richest and the poorest citizens in the country, by taking money from those who can most easily bear it. Of course the UK’s Tory government is as far from progressive as one can get.

And Harper said any money saved through reforms would have to be split “fairly between the taxpayer and the people who work in the industry”. Why give savings back to taxpayers when so much needs to be done to improve the rail service? Is he looking for another tax cut for the rich?

The whole spiel strikes This Writer as self-serving claptrap.

If Harper really wanted to do some good, wouldn’t it be better for him to offer to give the private rail operators and Network Rail the mandate for meaningful negotiations with the RMT union that its general secretary, Mick Lynch, has been told they don’t have?

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Rail strikes suspended for talks on new deal – but is anything new on offer?

Mick Lynch: he wasn’t holding back when he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time. Has anything changed?

Does Mick Lynch have a good reason to suspend rail strikes?

Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Mr Lynch, the RMT union’s general secretary, said

there had been “the promise of an offer” on pay from the rail operating companies.

However, when contacted by the BBC, rail employers and the government said their position had not changed.

If they’re not offering anything new, then there’s no reason to suspend strike action – is there?

The BBC’s report added that the suspension has been announced 11 days before a fresh RMT strike ballot is due to close on November 15.

Mr Lynch previously told the BBC that he expected workers to vote in favour, and warned that there could be strikes for another six months if no agreement is reached.

Will the new talks affect the way the ballot goes? Will they even take place before it finishes, so union members can be sure of the situation when they go to vote? Is the new offer – whatever it is – just an attempt to interfere with the result of the ballot?

Could Mr Lynch have behaved any differently?

This Writer isn’t sure he could have. But I wonder whether the future of rail services is being wagered on a form of negotiation brinkmanship.

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UK faces train disruption during second widespread rail strike in a week

The cause of the problem: if Boris Johnson thinks he’ll enjoy decent rail travel after his decisions caused inflation to soar, plunging workers into financial crisis, he’d better think again. The trouble is, his likely successors are unlikely to solve the problem because they are as pig-headed as he is.

Commuters were encouraged to find alternative routes to their destinations on Saturday as around 5,000 train drivers went on strike for higher pay.

Drivers’ union ASLEF called the strike because current franchise agreements between the government and the mostly foreign-owned firms that run UK rail services allow for pay rises of only two per cent – in effect, pay cuts with inflation running at 9.4 per cent, its highest in 40 years.

The strike is said to have cancelled almost all services run by seven of the UK’s 34 train operators, but is unlikely to break a stalemate between ASLEF and industry organisation the Rail Delivery Group, which says operators will give bigger pay rises only if train drivers agreed to changes in working practices that would save money.

According to International Business Times, RDG chair Steve Montgomery said,

“We’re not saying to people ‘work longer hours’, but to be more productive within the hours they currently have.”

How are they supposed to do that? They drive trains that run according to specific schedules, meaning their use of time is determined by their bosses, not them.

IBT also stated:

Soaring inflation … and patchy wage rises have exacerbated labour tensions across sectors including postal services, health, schools, airports and the judiciary.

So brace yourself for strikes in all those sectors as well. ASLEF is planning another one-day strike on August 13.

Source: Britain’s trains disrupted in second widespread rail strike in a week

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Is the government being honest with you about rail strikes?

Rail service: this is a generic image of a train and isn’t meant to represent any of the services that won’t be running.

This is from a BBC report about forthcoming rail strikes by the RMT union:

It is not for the government to intervene to stop rail strikes, the transport secretary has said – despite unions calling for talks.

Grant Shapps said the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) request for a meeting was a “stunt” and claimed it had been “determined to go on strike”.

The union said politicians were failing to prevent three days of industrial action.

Labour claimed ministers wanted the strikes to go ahead to “sow division”.

Strikes will take place on almost all major lines across Britain on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, as well as on the London Underground on Tuesday.

Is it a stunt by the union, though? Or is it one by the government?

Let’s look at what the Conservatives’ Facebook page has to say:

Keir Starmer’s own MPs back the week of rail chaos – with no concerns for the commutes 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙙, operations 𝙙𝙚𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙚𝙙 and businesses 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙.

Also:

Labour’s Strikes will prevent doctors, nurses and patients getting to hospital. Instead of backing the NHS, Labour are backing strike chaos.

There’s nothing about the reason for the strikes, you’ll notice.

So let’s find out from somebody who actually uses the train services likely to be affected. This is by Paula Peters, a long-time disability-campaigner friend:

A lady passenger was trying to book a taxi to get to work for next Tuesday first day of rail strike. Taxi told her sorry you’ve got to book on the day.

She was calling the rail workers all sorts so I put her straight on a few things.

I said, you use the rail network a lot right? See you got kids there.

Said the RMT are striking to not only fight for their terms & conditions, asking for increase in pay as they haven’t had one a long time and prices are rising, but they are fighting rail maintenance cuts, cuts to maintenance workers hours, stop the closure of ticket offices, fight against the reduction of services.

What do you mean rail maintenance? She said. I said you see engineering work sometimes don’t you? Replacing track, repairing it. She said yes. I said well the government want to cut rail maintenance jobs and it puts your safety at risk, because if track isn’t maintained there would be a serious rail accident which could lead to serious injury and loss of life.

She thought for a moment. She looked at her kids. Imagine if you your kids your husband were caught up in a rail accident and one of your family were seriously hurt.

That’s what the RMT are fighting back against. To protect your safety and everyone who travels on the rail network.

By this time 30 passengers on the carriage I was in were listening intently.

I said, look, next week may inconvenience you, but think about rail maintenance cuts, cuts to services, lack of ticket offices. Lack of platform staff. That these guys have families to feed and they are struggling too.

There was silence. Then a conductor whose name is Chris walks through the train.

I said excuse me are you RMT. He said he was. I said you on strike Tuesday? He said he was.

I stood up shook his hand. Then shouted out, SOLIDARITY to the RMT!

The carriage erupted into cheers.

You see?

When you actually know a little about matter like this, it can change your perspective completely. Are any of you opposing the rail strikes now?

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Is Department for Transport planning ‘all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions’?

Two-fingered salute: Boris Johnson’s message of thanks to transport workers who kept groceries, other goods and medical supplies moving during the Covid-19 crisis. His government is apparently planning to attack their jobs, pay and pensions as soon as it can.

The Tory government is planning to reward key transport workers who kept the UK running through the Covid crisis – with a kick in the teeth, it seems.

The Department for Transport is hoping to employ a “union-buster” to take on workers in an “all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions”, according to the RMT union.

And where the DfT leads, will other government departments follow in a renewed effort to destroy workers’ representation once and for all and begin a new dark age for the people of the UK?

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Employees (RMT) reports that the DfT is recruiting for a Rail Pensions and Workforce Director who will be a member of a new-created team of 15 workers.

An advertisement in The Guardian states that the successful applicant “will shape and define the future of pensions and workforce in the rail sector”, operating in a “politically sensitive environment”.

Welfare Journal quotes RMT general secretary Mick Cash:

RMT has been warning that the Government and the employers would be gearing up for a post-COVID assault on our members across the transport sector and here they are headhunting a dedicated hitman or woman.

It would be a scandal if the essential transport workers who have kept key staff and freight moving throughout the pandemic were rewarded with a kick in the teeth on jobs, pay and pensions.

And why not?

Matt Hancock has already slapped NHS employees in the face with his refusal to reward doctors, nurses and support staff for all their dedication, working to keep thousands of people alive in the face of indifference from their political employers who failed to source appropriate equipment.

So why shouldn’t the government tell the people who transported all the supplies – including, no doubt, the medical gear that we all needed (when it finally turned up) – that their contribution is not appreciated at all and that they will be punished rather than rewarded for it?

What did these people expect from selfish, ignorant, entitled toffs?

And what can you expect in the future? You know the Tories will get around to attacking you as soon as they’re able – don’t you?

Source: Government ‘gearing up for an all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions’ | Welfare Journal

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Is the Tory promise to reverse the Beeching railway cuts a test of our gullibility?

Look at the difference between the rail network in 1963 (before Beeching) and 1984 (after him). And the Tories reckon £500 million will restore all that? They’re stupid with money.

The Conservative government has announced that it intends to reopen historic railway lines that were closed in the 1960s after the infamous Beeching report.

But it has announced a pitifully small amount of funding for the plan – just £500 million.

To put that in perspective, that much money would reopen just 25 of the 5,000 miles of railway that Beeching axed – as Labour’s Andy McDonald pointed out:

In response, the Tories have said the money won’t repair any lines – it will be used only to fund feasibility studies to work out which routes can be restored.

In other words, not a single line will be restored as a result of this announcement – or with this funding.

It’s Boris Johnson’s 40 hospitals, all over again, only worse.

And on the subject of those phantom hospitals, if you have a Tory MP, maybe you’d like to wind them up by asking where – exactly – those hospitals are going to be?

And then watch them squirm.

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Supporters up in arms that HS2 might not be allowed to ruin irreplaceable natural habitats

Saddened: After all David Attenborough’s warnings about damage to the ecosystem on which human beings rely, it seems English people are quite happy to condemn species upon species to extinction in order to shorten their rail journeys by 20 minutes.

The HS2 high-speed rail link between London and the north of England could divide and destroy “huge swathes” of “irreplaceable” natural habitats – but supporters are reportedly devastated that part of it may be scrapped.

So much for our concern for the environment. Nobody cares that any number of rare species could die out, as long as they get to their destination 20 minutes faster.

And after all the warnings from David Attenborough. I wonder how he feels, now he knows he was wasting his breath on the general public.

It may seem trivial but it contributes to the expected destruction of a million animal species, ruining entire ecosystems on which human beings depend, as Sir David says, “for every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat.”

No, no – you’d rather make your journey 20 minutes shorter.

In fact, it doesn’t matter what members of the general public think.

It seems the Tory government is likely to scale down or even cancel HS2, because politicians like Boris Johnson want to put the money elsewhere.

Johnson’s transport adviser, Andrew Gilligan, is known to be against HS2, and Dominic Cummings, his chief adviser, is also not keen, having described it last year as a “white elephant”.

Johnson has for months been expected to endorse HS2 if it can reduce its costs, after commissioning a review by Douglas Oakervee, which is understood to support the whole line going ahead.

However, the government is dragging its feet over the publication of the Oakervee report and final decision, claiming the document is not finished yet even though it was submitted to the Department for Transport in November.

A DfT source insisted “there is no final report” as Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, “had some questions” about earlier drafts and it was sent back for revisions.

It seems that, if the government does cancel or restrict HS2, it will have made the right choice, at long last – although, as usual, for the wrong reasons.

Source: HS2 supporters fear Boris Johnson plans to scrap part of rail project | UK news | The Guardian

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Rail fares rise by 2.7 per cent – and most of the money will go abroad

This is a Pacer train – a bus frame mounted on train wheels as a “stopgap” measure more than 30 years ago, until Northern Rail could afford to replace them. That has never happened and they remain in use today because Tory privatisation means huge amounts of our money have subsidised foreign nationalised railways rather than being invested in our own.

Are you aware that, Brexit or no, huge amounts of your money are funnelled into European Union countries – because of Tory privatisation of our national assets?

That may seem a strange way to open an article about this year’s 2.7 per cent increase in rail fares – but the point is that the extra money being extorted out of commuters will go abroad, to fund foreign rail services.

And the fact is that trains in the UK are now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries.

Yes, by stupidly selling off our railways into private hands, the Tories allowed them to slip into the ownership of foreign national railways.

It is to those firms that the extra money from yearly rail price increases goes.

Alternatively, perhaps you’d prefer to think of it in these terms: the same foreign rail services – owned by EU states – have creamed off seven-eighths of the subsidy that the UK government provides to privatised rail services and are using that money for themselves.

When I reported on this three years ago, that subsidy totalled £3.999 billion from the year services were privatised (1994) until 2017 – meaning foreign-owned rail systems had made £3.5 billion in profit from the UK.

Now, with far more of the network owned and run by foreign countries – and three years later – the amount of profit is likely to be far greater.

And the Conservatives running the UK absolutely love giving that money away.

They love the fact that almost all the money the Treasury has been providing to improve the service has been leeched off in profit for foreign rail services instead.

They love the fact that rail fares have shot up by nearly half since 2010, squeezing commuters’ pay packets – which are already worth less than they were in 2008 due to Tory austerity.

They have to love it – otherwise they have to admit that privatisation is a crushing failure that harms UK citizens rather than empowering them.

By contrast, rail fares in Germany have just been cut by 10 per cent.

German state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn runs around a quarter of all UK rail operating companies through its firm Arriva UK Trains.

So, if you have travelled by rail over the last few years, your money has helped make it cheaper for Germans to use their trains.

That is the result of UK rail privatisation.

The Tories are responsible for this. Still, at least the Germans know what to do with it, if only in their own country.

Source: Rail fares rise by 2.7%, hitting millions of commuters – BBC News

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Letdown on rail accessibility for disabled people shows the Tories’ are still siding with big business

David Cameron (remember him?) vowed to remove Northern Rail’s infamous Pacer trains – bus frames mounted on train wheels as a “stopgap” measure more than 30 years ago – way back in 2014. A total of 180 Pacers will now remain in use, because the current Tory government has been too weak to stand up to big business.

The Conservatives’ recent election manifesto stated that the UK didn’t need to renationalise the rail network; it just needed to make it accountable. What a shame that won’t happen.

It is the second failed promise within days of the Conservatives being returned to office after the election. So far, they have not delivered on any of their commitments.

The rail letdown concerns accessibility for disabled people.

Private rail firms were given 10 years to make all trains accessible for people with disabilities – 10 years ago. They are not going to meet the January 1, 2020 deadline.

But instead of holding the privateers to account for their failure, the Tories have ripped up the deadline and granted no fewer than 10 companies permission to breach the new accessibility standards.

Remember that rail fares have skyrocketed since privatisation, with most of the money going to subsidise the large – nationalised – rail industries of other European countries that own our private railways.

According to The Independent:

The new plan is for the carriages to be replaced between April and next December – a full year’s delay – although it is unclear how achievable those new deadlines will be.

The minister’s letter says: “Despite such a significant period of time for the rail industry to prepare, I understand that were all non-compliant trains removed from service there would be a disproportionately negative effect on the provision of services for passengers.

“Thus I have reluctantly agreed to issue strictly time-limited dispensation notices to a number of operators for around 1,200 carriages in the national fleet.”

Truth is, the rail firms can always say there would be a “disproportionately negative effect” on passenger services if the non-compliant trains were taken out of service – and never replace them.

And what will the Tories do about it? Roll over and extend the deadline again.

It is as Labour’s transport spokesman Andy McDonald said: “You cannot believe a word they say.”

Source: Deadline to make trains accessible for disabled ripped up in Boris Johnson’s first ‘broken promise’ since election win | The Independent

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UK railway services are now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries

Could there be a better argument to support Labour’s call for train services to be re-nationalised?

British rail commuters pay the highest prices in Europe to use trains that are almost exclusively run by European state operators.

We are subsidising services in their countries.

If our railways were re-nationalised, the money we pay would flow into UK state coffers. From there it could be used to, possibly, improve the service and reduce prices.

Don’t you think that would be a better way?

With rail fares set to rise again by as much as 2.8 per cent, the debate over whether the UK should renationalise the railways – which Labour made a 2017 manifesto pledge – has already reared its head.

This week the Trades Union Congress renewed its call for renationalisation, saying doing so would lead to lower ticket prices.

“We’re already paying the highest ticket prices in Europe to travel on overcrowded and understaffed trains,” the organisation’s general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

[But] extensive state-ownership exists among UK rail operators, it just doesn’t involve the British state.

Here’s the full list:

c2c: Italian state

Chiltern: German state

Caledonian sleeper: PRIVATE

CrossCountry: German state

East Midlands: Dutch state

Eurostar: French state

Gatwick Express: French state

Grand Central: German state

Great Northern: French state

GWR: PRIVATE

Greater Anglia: Dutch state

Heathrow Express: PRIVATE

Hull Trains: PRIVATE

LNER: British state

London Northwestern Railway: Dutch state

London Overground: German state

London Underground: British state

Merseyrail: Dutch state

Northern: German state

Northern Ireland Railways: British state

Scotrail: Dutch state

South Western Railway: Hong Kong state

Southeastern: French state

Southern: French state

Stansted Express: Dutch state

TfL rail: Hong Kong state

Thameslink: French state

TransPennine Express: PRIVATE

Transport for Wales: French state

West Coast: Italian state

West Midlands Railway: Dutch state

Source: Trains on UK railways now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries | The Independent

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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