ASLEF leader slams Railtrack ‘betrayal’

18 December 2006

Keith Norman, leader of train drivers’ union ASLEF, has called remarks made over the weekend by Railtrack chief John Armitt ‘ either potty or treacherous’. Armitt has been calling for rural train services to be replaced by buses and taxis.

‘Mr Armitt announced his retirement last week,’ Keith said. ‘It looks as if he wants to take the rail industry with him. This isn’t going to happen. Britain’s rail service is far bigger than John Armitt.’

Armitt’s argument is that running ‘mostly empty’ trains was a waste of money and ‘environmentally unfriendly’. Instead, he wants to pump more money into ‘overcrowded routes around and between major cities’.

‘The central folly is that he wants to subsidise popular inter-city routes,’ Keith says. ‘These are precisely the routes that don’t need subsidies! The ones that do need subsidies are the ones he wants to shut!

‘To say running cabs abound rural roads is better for the environment than trains is to fly in the face of both logic and reason. Suddenly all the experts are wrong and John Armitt is right.

‘I can only say I am looking forward to his retirement party.’

Mr Armitt was speaking as government's Strategic Rail Authority identified the 60 least-used lines in Britain. ‘This is another misleading piece of useless measurement,’ Keith said. ‘The real cost to a rural community to lose its vital rail links is not measurable. I hope Mr Armitt’s successor, Iain Coucher, will realise his job is to provide a public transport service, not to decimate it.’

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