Mick's Column

Here you can find the regular column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

Responses raise more questions than answers

February 2015

The railway system has been hitting the headlines for all thewrong reasons at the start of this year. The annual increase in fares, on themain line, and the tube in London, has met with disapproval not only from the travellingpublic but from employers and certain politicians recognising it is notsustainable, and also questioning the quality of service.

As stakeholders, we recognise the need to maintain and, hopefully,improve the infrastructure but the nonsense at Finsbury Park and Paddington doesnothing for all of us who are identified with the railway. The responses toboth situations were baffling and concerning. Mark Carne told the TransportSelect Committee the issues at Finsbury were due to installing untestedhardware – which raises more questions than it answers. Paddington, apparently,was down to eight hours of checks being required on the work done. Do you not checkwork as it’s completed, or build in the time needed as part of the project? Andwe have seen, once more, the privatised train companies seeking to blamedrivers for their failure to have enough resources to cover their services.

One thing the rail industry continually fails to recognise isthat it is the staff who take the abuse – the gripes and the groans – over farerises. Operating staff are equallyinconvenienced by failures such as Finsbury Park and Paddington as they mightlike to get home in the hours they expected, too.

Companies bemoaning their lack of drivers might want to addresstheir own failings. Because how much worse would it be without the goodwill ofthose drivers who cover a company’s shortfall? Would the TOCs like to publish the additional hours and days worked bydrivers that hide the true situation and shortages? Maybe, instead, they couldlet the travelling public, and the world, know that they are grateful for allyou do in sometimes difficult circumstances. That’s why I want to thank you foreverything you do to maintain the safe operation and services of our railwaysystem.