After our lobby, the government issues rail freight statement

26 July 2005

Alistair Darling has made a Written Ministerial Statement on the government’s attitude towards Freight on Rail.

The full statement is available at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2005-07-19.71WS.6

While the union is pleased that its lobby of Parliament has encouraged the Minister to put his cards on the table, it is less enthusiastic about the contents of the statement.

The first reaction of General Secretary Keith Norman was that ‘the Minister for Transport seems rather more relaxed about the situation than he could be’.

Keith is especially concerned that the Ten Year Plan for Transport, published in 2000, has been given a new interpretation. The Minister denies that growth of up to 80% was ever a target: rather, he says, it was an indication of what might happen if rail freight operators ‘won business in highly competitive markets’.

Keith is disappointed at the Minister’s statement that the government ‘will not dictate to the industry how it should run its business or become involved in operational matters,’ saying that it looks like ‘a formula for doing nothing at all’.

The statement says that the government will ‘continue to support the principle of incremental access charges for freight operators’ – but the union believes the time for discussing principles is well over. ‘We are looking for action, not discussions,’ Keith says.

‘ASLEF wants to see the government taking an active role. That is the purpose of our Who Cares? campaign, and, we believe, is what the public is looking for.’

The union will be looking at the statement in more detail over the coming weeks. But at the moment it looks like a shoddy response to our campaign. ‘We are pleased to have got a statement from the Minister,’ Keith says. ‘And I do not deny that there are positive points in it. But we were all hoping for something more innovative and positive.’

If you have views on the Ministerial Statement or on the union’s reaction, please let us know at journal@aslef.org.uk

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