On the eve of the expected publication of a Government Command Paper on their future plans for rail, RMT has warned that Ministers are preparing to wind back the clock to the days of the Hatfield and Potters Bar disasters and bring in private ownership of rail infrastructure for the first time since the collapse of Railtrack.
RMT understands that the Command Paper, the Government’s long-awaited response to the McNulty Rail Review, will propose the break-up of Network Rail, and the concept of a national rail infra-structure system, in favour of concessions to private train operating companies to run both trains and track to fatten up profits.
The idea of “deep alliances”, as a forerunner to infra-structure privatisation, is already being piloted on a joint operation on South West Trains and has long been demanded by the train operators as a way of seizing complete control and maximizing profits.
In addition to a series of failed “mini-Railtracks” across the country, RMT also expects the Command Paper to confirm a series of other damaging and potentially lethal proposals:
- The axing of 12,000 jobs in a first tranche of cuts with the closure of ticket offices, removal of guards from trains and slashing signals and infra-structure staffing levels.
- Introducing “gold-plated” fifteen year franchises, alongside control of infrastructure, in a total caving-in to the profit-driven demands of the train operators.
- Lifting the lid on fare increases and allowing operators to impose inflation-busting increases year on year.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“RMT is in no doubt that the Government’s plans for rail will be cast in the image of their plans for the NHS, smashing up what’s left of a national system and allowing the private train companies to run riot in the name of profit and at the expense of passenger safety.
“If the Government want to cut the costs of running Britain’s railways they could do it at a stroke by returning to public ownership and eliminating the waste of fragmentation and profiteering that has bled the network dry – instead they are prescribing more of the same.
“We have said from the outset that McNulty is the biggest threat since privatisation a generation ago and will be met by a national campaign of resistance including the use of industrial action.
“Winding back the clock to the days of Railtrack, and the disasters of Hatfield and Potters Bar, through the break up and privatisation of infra-structure will recreate the same poisonous cocktail of failures that led us to unnecessary loss of life in those grim days.”