Who's responsible?

30 July 2018

When the Transport Secretary says in Parliament he ‘is not responsible for running the railways’ you know we are in the midst of a crisis. Is it the forced taking over of the East Coast franchise, the failure to deliver infrastructure improvements, and electrification, or the drop in season ticket sales for the second consecutive period? The madness of franchises replacing new trains with new trains, because it’s cheaper, or the rumours of more franchises seeking to renegotiate their contracts while considering handing back the keys? No! It’s the failure to deliver the timetables on GTR and Northern, serially cancelling trains, and short forming the few trains that do finally arrive. All the stakeholders are busy blaming each other; Network Rail not giving enough notice of the paths available, companies not being able to train drivers on the new routes, or recruit the numbers they need, and the DfT awarding contracts that are undeliverable. Mr Grayling, we know, ultimately, where the responsibility lies.


I must have missed the thanks from the government and the companies to the drivers and other staff bearing the brunt of the failings and incompetence of others. Rail staff are trapped out there with the passengers, not getting home, or their scheduled breaks, and, more importantly, in the frontline for the anger of the travelling public. I hope when the authorities, such as the ORR, look at this fiasco they take cognisance of the safety implications of continual roster and diagram change, of fatigue and people not getting their proper breaks. The situation would be a thousand times worse if we were not working over and above our agreed hours.


Some time ago I congratulated Unison on the great result they had ensuring that those who go to employment tribunals have some sort of recourse to support and have a voice when treated badly or illegally by employers. Now we need to challenge the Civil Liability Bill which will, under the guise of dealing with whiplash complaints, take away support in real terms for anyone who suffers an injury at work or elsewhere. The insurance lobby has worked hard to claim that the number of claims necessitates this. Our view is investigate properly; do not deny recompense to those who deserve it by making it impossible to get legal support or afford advice.


I want to thank all those who attended the anti-Trump and anti-fascist demonstrations, Pride, the Durham Miners’ Gala and Tolpuddle. And to John Metcalfe, who has joined the EC, I look forward to working with you.


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