Patrick McLoughlin - papering over the cracks

27 February 2015

Government plans for rail in the north of England are only papering over the cracks in the system and fail to address the real problems clear to everyone who works in the industry, says ASLEF, the train drivers’ union.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: ‘It’s always worrying when you see that the Secretary of State has used a ministerial direction; it means that a minister has ordered his permanent secretary to go ahead when the civil service, who clearly have serious doubts about the enterprise, believes it does not offer the taxpayer proper value for money.

‘The truth is that these plans, announced today, only paper over the growing cracks in the fabric of the failed franchise structure imposed when John Major privatised Britain’s railways.

‘Of course we want to see the back of the Pacers, and the introduction of a modern fleet, but we have been calling for that for years. The devil, as always,is in the detail. And we know that these plans will mean higher fares for passengers and cuts to jobs for railway staff.

‘We are opposed to higher fares – we now have the highest fares in Europe – opposed to job cuts – passengers deserve a proper service, from a person, not a ticket machine, and have the right to be safe at all times – and opposed to the extension of driver only operated trains because we want trains to be safe for everyone who uses the railway and works in the industry.

‘The government’s plans for higher fares and fewer jobs is not the answer to the challenges for rails services in the north. A modern railway, fit for the 21st century, is vital for the development not just of the north, but of the whole country.’

Mick was responding to the Conservative-led coalition government’s publication of its invitations to tender for the Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises.

He added: ‘The franchise system is not flawed, it is broken. It doesn’t work. It’s time to put passengers before profits and do what is best for Britain. That means bringing Britain’s railways back into public ownership. And that’s not just what we think. It’s what the people of this country, in poll after poll, are telling the politicians they want as well.’

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