Mick's Column


Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

20202019 - 2018 - 2017201620152014  - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

Other archived columns:  2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005


Days are confused


June 2020


Thank you for all you are doing in these confused and difficult times. It is our duty to keep the lines of communication open for key workers, and the transport of food and medical supplies, for the protection of our communities and nation.


The rail unions wrote a joint letter to Westminster, Holyrood, and the Welsh Assembly asking that any timetable for change to dealing with the pandemic be dealt with in the same way. That has not happened and, inevitably, has led to confusion. We also campaigned that when the time is right, and safe, all transport sectors – and I detest this terminology – ‘ramp up’ services at the same rate to spread demand and not create pinch points. 


The Prime Minister announced changes on Sunday evening, and not via Parliament, and was promptly contradicted the next day by Dominic Raab – but don’t worry, ‘good old- fashioned British common sense’ will apparently see us through – while the devolved governments took different positions as Mr Johnson’s message changed from stay safe to stay alert. 


I am not sure we were ready to relax procedures. Vague advice asking – but not telling – people not to use public transport and to stagger their journeys is patently not enough. But I do endorse Grant Shapps for seeking to repeatedly state it. Average ridership in all areas is massively down but people are not travelling outside the traditional peaks and, as more people return to work, this will only be exacerbated. We do not have a problem with agreed increases in services – done in a safe and controlled manner – to help spread the loading, and maintain social distancing, but we reserve the right to act in other circumstances. 


The CWU has just won a major battle to protect changes to services and the CEO has resigned – congratulations on their deserved success. 


Clapping NHS and social care workers is a fine tribute but the greatest tribute we can give them is to ensure that public sector salaries are not frozen for two years. We have shown what we can do when we come together for a greater good; let’s carry that on and create a better, more inclusive, society. 


Finally, I want to thank ASLEF’s branch secretaries, reps, officers, EC, and staff who are going the extra yard. Our thoughts are continually with you, and your family, at this difficult time. Please be safe and well.



Yours fraternally


Mick Whelan, general secretary


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