ASLEF demands ‘genuine’ review of rail franchises

15 October 2012

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said that passengers and rail staff ‘demand and deserve’ to be heavily involved in a full-ranging and in-depth review of rail franchising. The latest minister for transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has promised a review into ‘the wider rail franchise programme’.

‘He will be judged by how independent and comprehensive that exercise proves to be,’ Mick said.

‘After the recent debacles on the East and West Coast Main Lines, this review must satisfy the public and rail staff that rail finances will be open, balanced and efficient. That is why it is important to involve both ASLEF and passengers. We are the ones who have been most affected by the various franchise fiascos,’ Mick insists.

‘Staff are unsure about who will be employing them, a situation not helped by the government’s plans to weaken the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations). And passengers are obviously involved because they are the ones picking up enormous fare increases partly caused by franchise antics.

‘Today’s announcement that the government and Virgin have patched up an interim Hobson’s choice arrangement to keep the West Coast line operational for another few months has done nothing to end our disquiet and concerns.

‘Only a review that is seen to be extensive, includes all interested parties and examines all options including renationalisation, will suffice.’

Mick points out that independent scrutiny of the current system is virtually non-existant. ‘Bids cannot be examined because of ‘commercial confidentiality’’ he points out. ‘Add to that the fact that the department for transport has had over 400 jobs chopped in the search for ‘austerity’, and we have a formula for no proper overview of the processes. Given those staff cuts, it is mere scapegoating to attempt to blame civil servants for recent disasters. There is a major difference between responsible cutting of red tape and providing a negligent service.’

Mick insists the system is wrong, not a few calculations. ‘That is what this review must examine in detail,’ he says.

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