Successful lobby sets scene for Union Freight Campaign

13 July 2005

Over 120 ASLEF members went to Westminster today (Wednesday) to seek support from their MPs for the union’s campaign to see more freight moved by rail.

‘It was a very successful lobby of Parliament,’ said General Secretary Keith Norman. ‘I am proud and delighted that union members made this important effort.’

After meeting over the road from the House of Lords, the ASLEF contingent gathered in one of the largest meeting rooms in the Palace of Westminster – and filled just about every seat. Robin Cook, former – and we hope future - Cabinet member and current MP for Livingston, set the tone when he spoke of the huge cost of over-using roads for haulage.

‘I am not talking solely of financial costs,’ he said, ‘although it is true that the public massively subsidise heavy goods vehicles. I am also talking of the environment, global warming and health issues.’

He urged all ASLEF members to contact their MP on this subject, especially those who had not been able to get to the lobby. ‘The more allies you can get for us, the stronger we can represent this case to government,’ he said, as he called moving freight by rail ‘the rational and modern solution’. 

Both Lord Berkley (Chairman of the Rail Freight Group) and Kelvin Hopkins MP talked about the need for government intervention if projects like the Channel Tunnel and uniquely freight lines were to be developed.

‘State intervention is a necessity,’ the MP said. ‘The private sector cannot deliver because its aims and policies are always short term: this needs government involvement.’

Nottingham MP Alan Simpson said that most lobbies came to Parliament with a problem. ‘You are coming today with a solution!’ he declared. 

General Secretary Keith Norman thanked all the speakers and the lobbyists before ASLEF President Alan Donnelly closed the meeting. Members then went to the Central Lobby to put in a ‘green card’ - the signal that a constituent wishes to see his or her MP.

Most MPs had been pre-warned of the visit and few needed much persuasion that the union’s case was sensible, practical and desirable. 

‘We’ve made an important start to this campaign today,’ Keith Norman said. ‘The challenge now is to keep up the pressure until we’ve made a difference.’

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