Save Our Rail campaign launched

21 March 2012

The rail unions, along with the TUC and transport pressure groups, launched the ‘Save Our Rail’ campaign yesterday. Its aims are to stave off the excesses of the government’s Command Paper on Rail, which emerged from the McNulty review of the industry, and to make the case for a publicly owned and accountable rail service.

Opening the meeting, Frances O’Grady of the TUC stressed the need for an alliance of ‘everyone concerned with the industry, including unions, passenger groups, local communities, local government, transport lobbying groups and politicians at every level.

‘We cannot leave rail to the ‘magic of the market’ as the Tories see it,’ she said. ‘The Command Paper is an attempt to save costs by introducing unproven and untested theories.’

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, insisted that the government was embarking on a ‘sticking plaster solution’ with no concept of a long term strategy or vision for rail. He regretted that the opportunity to look at the industry dispassionately had been ignored.

‘Franchising and privatisation have been discredited as a faulty models,’ Mick declared. ‘One has led to the fragmentation of our industry and the second has deprived it of investment. Why are our fares more expensive than on Continental Europe? Because they invest in their railways while our system creams off profits into the bank accounts of private investors.’

Mick insisted that staff cuts were wrong because ‘passengers prefer to talk to people than machines they don’t trust' , and that ‘alliancing’ was a new term for the old concept of having rail safety directed by the profit motive – a discredited system which had led directly to Potters Bar and Hatfield.

Bob Crow said the RMT would continue to argue for a railway that was owned and controlled by the public because morally rail profits must ‘be reinvested in the industry or given to the rest of society’. Bob said the only place TOCs invested willingly was in car parks where they could charge outrageous prices!

Manuel Cortes of the TSSA was followed by speakers from Unite, the Campaign for Better Transport and Maria Eagle, the Shadow transport minister.

‘Today has been the start of a campaign that is vital for the future of rail in the UK,’ Mick said at the end of the meeting. ‘It is a battle none of us can afford to lose – worker, taxpayer or passenger. The alternative is the vision of the previous Tory transport minister Philip Hammond : ‘a rich man’s toy’.'

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