The rail industry's in flux

01 December 2018

Rail industry’s in flux

Our industry is in flux with several TOCs rumoured to be ready to hand back the keys, or renegotiate their contracts, and ScotRail already in receipt of next year’s subsidy.

Uncertainty over Brexit, and the strength of the euro against the pound, make bidding uncertain.

The collapse of the funding model and the lack of leadership by the Transport Secretary, compounded by the loss of his number two, Jo Johnson, who had no grasp of the brief, anyway, hardly inspires confidence. How many franchises are on hold? Who can remember the last time a franchise was awarded? We must now be in double figures for the number of direct awards. I have been attacked for suggesting future direct awards should be challenged – legally, industrially, and, possibly, politically. What are they afraid of? What are they hiding? And, more importantly, what are they offering to keep the facade going? Holyrood had a debate on nationalisation and the SNP and Tories showed their true colours, against public opinion, by voting for the status quo.

This year we produced, at members’ request, both red and white poppies, with all the monies going to charity. This union respects – and will always respect – those who did their duty for our country even if, on occasion, we disagreed with the rationale for some conflicts. But those who have seen the horrors of war have said we should campaign for peace and recognise the victims of conflict. In a civilised society, we can do both.

It is with great sadness we heard about the passing of former president and officer Bill Ronksley, 76 years a member, an inspiration to generations, and admired and respected across the movement by anyone who had dealings with him, bosses and workers alike.

Two other major figures are retiring this month. I first came across Hugh Bradley when we were local level reps in the early ’90s in preparation for the Freightliner split. His determination to do the best for others, based on a true moral compass, with common sense and intelligence, often in the most trying circumstances, has made him someone whose opinion has always been listened to; loyal and honourable personify Shug, who is universally respected. Tosh McDonald is equally deservedly respected, with a similar social conscience, dedicated to the needs of others. No one has done more to raise the profile of ASLEF, politically and industrially, than Tosh. The legacy they leave is one of unstinting duty to and for others; but true friends and comrades never really go away. Thank you seems inadequate! Big shoes to step into but we welcome Jim Baxter and Mark Wakenshaw, confident they are up to the task. After 138 years we evolve and all have to pass the lighted flame on at some point, so we enter a New Year full of hope and aspiration.

Have a great Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year.

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