ASLEF at Congress: Tuesday (rail freight)

12 September 2018

AGS Simon Weller moved motion 13, about the danger of rail freight decline for UK infrastructure, on Tuesday afternoon. In a passionate speech, made without notes, and speaking from the heart, he told congress: ‘I was a rail freight driver for many years. And it’s hard. The passenger sector – the shiny, sexy rail transport sector – isn’t really privatised. If a franchise fails, staff get a new uniform, the carriages get a new livery, and it all continues. Because the franchises are really government contracts, run by bus companies, and European state railways. Because the British government doesn’t have a problem with state ownership as long as it’s not the British state doing the owning…

‘But if a rail freight company goes under, it’s the job centre for train drivers. Because the rail freight sector is properly privatised, it’s red in tooth and claw, and it’s not a pretty sight.

‘Over the last few years we’ve witnessed the collapse of rail freight in this country. One company, which had 3,000 staff, now has 680. Another tried to get 1,116 drivers to reapply for their own jobs with different, and much worse, terms and conditions. It was thanks to ASLEF that the company failed in that attempt at a land grab on our t&cs.

‘But the truth is that once you lose the capacity, that capacity does not come back. And we are losing capacity, and it won’t come back. And it is the freight sector that carries out the heavy maintenance on the infrastructure.

‘Sending freight by rail is 20 times safer than moving it with HGVs. And moving freight by rail, rather than road, must be part of our drive to reduce carbon emissions by 2050.’

The motion was seconded by Manuel Cortes, TSSA, who said: ‘Our rail freight sector is on life support.’

 

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