Tag Archives: train

ASLEF’s Mick Whelan schools ignorant Tory minister on reasons for rail strike

Train drivers with the trade union ASLEF are on strike again this week (January 30 – February 5) as they enter a third year of dispute with 14 privatised rail operators.

The strikes have affected train operators including Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, Great Northern, GTR Thameslink, South Western Railway main line and depot drivers, and SWR Island Line.

They have caused widespread disruption, and passengers have been advised to check with their respective train operators for the latest updates on the situation.

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Drivers are stopping work region-by-region over the course of the week, couple with a nine-day ban on overtime that started on January 29 and will end on February 6.

Amazingly, the Tory government’s ministerial mouthpiece on the morning media round today (Tuesday, January 30) claimed he did not know why drivers were on strike:

ASLEF’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, explained why this might be, when he said neither the government nor the train operating firms had engaged with the union for a year.

In a Sky News TV interview, he added:

The government and rail firms say they have offered to raise average pay for drivers from £60,000 to £65,000 per year. That’s an increase of 8 1/3 per cent on the pay rate five years ago, which strikes This Writer as low – for example, MP salaries increased by 12 per cent in the five years between 2018 and 2023.

But which side will have public sympathy, in a country where the national mass media are rich businesspeople’s lapdogs?


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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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Image of Johnson on way to Manchester is a metaphor for his leadership

Wrong direction: the London North Eastern Railway would have taken Boris Johnson to Newcastle, not Manchester. And don’t think for a moment that he would have carried his own bags.

He was on the wrong track. Get it?

People have been having lots of fun with this tragic tweet from the party of miscommunication:

It’s just so false – which is appropriate when one considers the person who is its subject.

The train wasn’t going to Manchester…

… and you can bet that, wherever Johnson was going, he wouldn’t have been carrying his own bags to get there.

This Writer can only conclude from the image that it is good for the Conservative Party that he won’t be making his speech until Wednesday (October 6).

On the basis of this evidence, he would need that time just to find Manchester.

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The two faces of Ed Miliband are revealed by the Rebecca Long-Bailey row

Ed Miliband has claimed his boss Keir Starmer was right to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey – while also claiming the party isn’t purging itself of left-wingers.

The two claims are incompatible. Long-Bailey was the continuity left-wing candidate in the party’s recent leadership election and Starmer has used a flimsy excuse related to anti-Semitism to sack her.

Many other left-wingers are either being suspended for the same flimsy reason or have already been expelled (like This Writer) – but Miliband is insisting that there is no purge.

He has just incinerated any credibility he had left. Nobody should believe a word of it.

Look at this nonsense:

Miliband, the shadow business secretary and a former party leader, said Long-Bailey was a decent person and not antisemitic but that Starmer was right to sack her.

The reason the Maxine Peake interview was a problem “is not that it had a criticism of the state of Israel. I’m a big critic of what the Israeli government has done on a number of occasions. It was that it was a false criticism of the state of Israel, or rather the Israeli Defence Force, linked to the death of George Floyd, wrongly, saying that somehow tactics that killed George Floyd were linked to the Israelis,” Miliband told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

“The problem is that over the centuries when calamitous things have happened, Jews have been blamed. That’s why there’s an antisemitism issue in relation to this and that’s why I believe Keir took the right decision. I think she made a significant error of judgment.”

Notice the wording: “When calamitous things have happened, Jews have been blamed.” Not “Jews have been wrongly blamed”.

It would be anti-Semitic to blame Jews – in this case, Jewish people working for the Israeli police or military – for something they haven’t done.

But we know that police from many US states have been trained by the Israeli police and/or military. And we have photographic evidence of the Israeli police/military – well, see for yourself:

Choke hold: Israeli armed forces using the same ‘knee on neck’ technique that was used to kill George Floyd. But we’re being asked to believe Israel never taught that technique to US police and it is anti-Semitic to suggest that one country’s armed forces could teach such techniques to another’s police.

It is in the face of this evidence that the Israeli authorities – not the Jews – are claiming their forces don’t teach these methods to US police.

It is not a credible position, therefore neither is Miliband’s.

So his other claim – that left-wingers in the Labour Party aren’t being subjected to a purge – must also fall. He said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:

Allies of Ms Long-Bailey who have criticised her sacking – such as former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and ex-party chair Ian Lavery – would not be disciplined for doing so.

He dismissed concerns expressed by some on the left of the party that this was a prelude to a further distancing from the Jeremy Corbyn-era and that legitimate criticism of Israel would be frowned upon.

“I heard something… about how Keir wants to purge these people. He is not about purges. He wants to change the country by not having the Labour Party mired in issues which, frankly, provide a stain on us. Keir took very strong action [against Ms Long-Bailey] and now we need to move on and deal with the issues of anti-Semitism we face.”

This Writer doesn’t believe that for a moment.

By sacking Long-Bailey and forcing left-wingers to reconsider whether they have a future in the Labour Party, he has plunged Labour even deeper into the mire.

He has not proved that criticism of Israel over this issue is not legitimate. All the evidence suggests that it has a very strong factual basis but Starmer seems determined to put his hands over his ears, shut his eyes, shake his head and mutter, “No, no, no,” like a petulant schoolboy whenever anybody tries to point this out. I have no doubt that Miliband will do the same.

It is this attitude that worsens Labour’s position. In refusing to take serious issues seriously, the party makes a mockery of its own position on anti-Semitism; how can it take a firm stand on the issue if it can’t accept the difference between anti-Semitism and justified criticism of a foreign government?

Left-wingers – including many who have not yet been smeared with accusations of anti-Semitism that are based on Labour’s bizarre misinterpretation – are quitting the party in large numbers, or seriously considering it, because of this pig-headed idiocy.

If there is a stain on the party, it is on Starmer and – despite his own Jewish heritage – Miliband.

They could put a stop to it by admitting their fault, accepting that Israel does have a prima facie case to answer (even though we may never have accurate facts because it is in that government’s interests to lie if its forces have been providing the disputed training), and resetting their claims about anti-Semitism to fall in line with accepted definitions of it.

But they won’t. They simply aren’t mature enough.

Source: Ed Miliband: Starmer was right to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey | Politics | The Guardian

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Long-Bailey’s sacking tells us all we need to know about Keir ‘double-standard’ Starmer and his racist Labour Party

Racist anti-Semite: Keir Starmer’s sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey shows support for Israeli organisations teaching US police how to subjugate – and in the case of George Floyd, kill – black and minority ethnic people. Paradoxically, he also supports the presence of anti-Semite Rachel Reeves in his Shadow Cabinet.

This is the end of the Labour Party as an inclusive, anti-racist organisation.

Keir Starmer has sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet after she retweeted a link to an Independent interview with one of her constituents, the actor Maxine Peake.

Starmer’s excuse is that Ms Peake’s article includes an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. He is lying in one of the most disgusting ways possible.

Here’s the passage in Ms Peake’s interview that has caused the offence:

“Systemic racism is a global issue,” she adds. “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

It is not anti-Semitic to suggest that. She wasn’t saying, “The Jews taught police to kneel on George Floyd’s neck.”

In fact, it seems widely accepted that Israeli organisations do indeed teach tactics to US police.

So this isn’t anti-Semitic to Keir Starmer:

Baltimore law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of others from FloridaNew Jersey, Pennsylvania, CaliforniaArizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North CarolinaGeorgiaWashington state as well as the DC Capitol police have all traveled to Israel for training. Thousands of others have received training from Israeli officials here in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice published a report … that documented “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement, and culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).

Nor is this, which you should note is from the Jerusalem Post:

A city in North Carolina has become the first municipality in the United States to ban training and other forms of exchange between its police department and Israel’s military or police.

“The Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of color,” [a] petition stated. “They persist in using tactics of extrajudicial killing, excessive force, racial profiling and repression of social justice movements. Such tactics have been condemned by international human rights organizations for violating the human rights of Palestinians.”

But Starmer seems to think that Ms Peake’s comments are anti-Semitic – despite their factual accuracy.

Doesn’t that suggest that Starmer is himself a… you know… racist?

He has deliberately attacked people who have exposed the way racists in one country – “The Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of color” – have been teaching their methods to racists in another  – “’widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement, and culture of retaliation’ within the Baltimore Police Department”.

Anyone who genuinely wants to fight racism would be thanking Ms Peake and Ms Long-Bailey for bringing this issue to public knowledge. Instead, he has sacked his MP from the shadow cabinet.

Meanwhile, Rachel Reeves – who made public her own support for a very well-documented anti-Semite – remains in the Shadow Cabinet with Starmer’s full support:

It seems clear that in Starmer’s Labour, racism and anti-Semitism are supported, and their opponents are opposed – all while the Labour leader glibly mouths platitudes claiming the exact opposite.

For those of us who have been contesting decisions to expel us from membership of Labour, this presents a thorny problem.

I had always intended to return to the party and campaign for reform, after I win my court case against Labour, which is now set to take place in October.

But I think it would harm my position if I were to say that now, because I do not want to be associated with any organisation that can be clearly identified as a racist, anti-Semite endeavour.

And Labour under Starmer is a racist, anti-Semite endeavour in a way that the party under Corbyn never was.

Or so it seems to me.

Ms Long-Bailey has put her side of this story in a Twitter thread:

This puts a nastier complexion on the matter still, because it seems Starmer used this issue as a pretext to eliminate Ms Long-Bailey – one of the last left-wingers, if not the last, from the Shadow Cabinet. He could have given her a chance to do as she suggested but he didn’t. That says it all.

Well, he should be gratified to know that we’ve all got the message. Take a look at some of the responses on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/AmmarKazmi_/status/1276157080819372037

https://twitter.com/simonmaginn/status/1276177278007939072

It does.

If Ms Peake does decide to sue Starmer, I would certainly consider helping fund her case.

Alternatively, Starmer could put us all out of our misery by making a full apology and resigning his membership of UK Labour with immediate effect.

Source: Maxine Peake: ‘People who couldn’t vote Labour because of Corbyn? They voted Tory as far as I’m concerned’ | The Independent

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Here’s the reason it is impossible to treat the plague in a post-truth country

The United Kingdom is never going to get to grips with Covid-19 if its government ministers continue to lie about it.

Grant Shapps – a man well-known for playing fast-and-loose with the facts – was up to his old tricks at a press briefing last week when, as Transport Secretary, he claimed trains were not overcrowded since the Tories ordered people back to work, despite numerous photos of overcrowded trains.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

That looks pretty crowded – and this was the Victoria Line. The Central Line at the height of rush hour must be a nightmare.

Bear in mind that social distancing rules still apply and we are supposed to stay at least two metres away from other people.

Shapps claimed that tube trains have been at just five per cent occupancy – which leads This Writer to wonder whether he has been averaging out usage over each 24-hour period, rather than examining the situation at times when people are most likely to be infected by close proximity to others.

He has announced that it will be mandatory to wear face masks on public transport from June 15, when the government intends to ease lockdown restrictions further and send more people back to work.

There is no justification for such easing; the nation remains at Covid alert level 4, meaning the virus remains at large and its reproduction rate is increasing.

But this is a government that won’t accept our truth; it is too busy pushing its own on us.

So snake-oil salesman Shapps told us, in very poor English: “In fact, there hasn’t been very much crowding situation going on.

“It’s not the case … that transport’s been overcrowded. We’ve been watching it very carefully.”

He continued to deny the facts, despite being shown photographic evidence of overcrowding on trains, taken on different days since the lockdown was eased:

“We tracked it on a day by day basis.

“I can literally tell you the trains where there was an issue, because the train was broken down, or Canning Town [in east London], where those pictures were shared very widely.

“But actually the broad picture is there have been one or two people sitting in carriages a lot of the time.”

What can you do, in the face of such blatant denial of the facts from a government minister who is hell-bent on exposing you to a killer disease?

What will you do?

Source: Grant Shapps claims trains aren’t overcrowded despite photos of overcrowded trains – Mirror Online

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These hypocrites: Lib Dems took £9K from students. See what they want to do next

Hypocrisy: Vince Cable, who was a minister in the Coalition government and oversaw the disastrous privatisation of the Royal Mail as well as voting for the increase in tuition fees, is set to announce the new policy at the Liberal Democrat conference.

The Liberal Democrats are saying they want to give people £9,000 to fund learning, nine years after they reneged on their promise to end university tuition fees and increased them to £9,000 instead.

Does Jo Swinson think we have forgotten?

It was the fundamental betrayal that set the tone of the so-called ConDem coalition for the next five years.

Here’s the Mirror to explain the idea:

A motion at this weekend’s party conference will see Vince Cable push a £1.5 billion plan for a universal Education and Skills Account which would see the Government hand every person £3,000 when they turn 25, 40 and 55.

The amounts would be designed to “encourage workers to retrain into shortage occupations”.

It is hugely hypocritical of Swinson’s party.

This is the party that took away people’s ability to get the qualifications they needed for the career they wanted.

Now it says it would use the money from that policy to shoe-horn the same people into jobs a Liberal Democrat government would say are needed.

This is a policy to deny people the ability to choose their own careers; their own paths in life.

And they call themselves Liberals.

Shame on them.

Source: Lib Dems want to give adults £9k to learn – ten years after backing £9k uni fees – Mirror Online

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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

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Grayling’s failings are spreading – look at the mess he made of launching these new trains

This Writer has had a grudge against Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling since he was Minister for Employment under Iain Duncan Smith, so forgive me if I take a moment to gloat:

The Tory Transport Secretary got a taste of what its really like to be a commuter today when his policy launch descended into a PR nightmare straight from the Thick of It.

Chris Grayling launched a new fleet of trains on the Great Western line and boarded the first service – the 6am from Bristol Temple Meeds to London Paddington – to mark the occasion.

First, the departure was delayed by 25 minutes and it then broke down 22 miles outside London, according to Independent travel writer Simon Calder, who was also on board.

The service eventually arrived 40 minutes late, but only after causing significant rush-hour delays for other trains on the route.

Tory Wales Secretary Alun Cairns (pictured right) was hoping the launch of the new trains would help people forget about the Government’s decision to cancel rail electrification to Swansea.

But the first new train due to depart from London for south Wales was cancelled.

Passengers on new trains that did run not only had to put up with delays, but [there were other ]faults like a leaking air conditioning unit [and] there was still no more space.

Even Tory ‘improvements’ make things worse.

Source: Chris Grayling launched a new train – which immediately broke down with him on board | Political Scrapbook


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Are German State Railways exploiting train drivers in Britain to put lives at risk? | David Hencke

A DB Cargo UK train in the UK [Image: Flickr].

A DB Cargo UK train in the UK [Image: Flickr].

Another failure of privatisation: The freight trains concerned are owned by a (nationalised!) German company.

They use the same lines as passenger trains, which means if the dangerous practices aren’t stopped, sooner or later somebody is likely to die.

The rules, that mean drivers aren’t getting rest for up to 19 hours at a time, are being enforced by a foreign-owned company that bought into the British railway system when it was privatised.

Solution: Re-nationalise the UK’s railways and bring in proper safety measures. Right?

A highly respected but [previously] completely unnoticed report from Whitehall’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch… followed two cases of drivers last year “momentarily falling asleep ”while driving huge  freight trains on the Great Western main line near Reading.

The report made damning reading of the way DB Cargo UK, the Doncaster based British subsidiary of  state railway Deutsche Bahn, was treating its  train drivers with little concern for their  welfare and for that matter rail safety.

The report revealed that a combination of long shifts – ten hours at a time – and rest facilities which were ” unfit for purpose ” –two sofas in a  brightly lit corridor – meant that drivers had little or no sleep. One driver hadn’t slept for 19 hours when he went over the danger signal. Another came to a halt where a luckily empty high speed passenger train was due to cross its path on the way to London Paddington. It was stopped by automatic train signals.

Source: Are German State Railways exploiting train drivers in Britain to put lives at risk? | David Hencke

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