Socialist Worker

Tories bail out Southern rail bosses to bash the union

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2520

Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling has handed our money to Southern

Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling has handed our money to Southern


The Southern Railway gravy train was topped up with a £20 million bailout last week from Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling.

The news came ahead of a planned two-day strike by Southern train guards on Wednesday.

Former Virgin Trains executive Chris Gibb landed himself a £1,500 a day job heading Grayling’s new “hit squad”. It is tasked with sorting out the mess at Southern, which is run by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).

Meanwhile, Govia’s owners Go Ahead saw profits soar by 27 percent to £100 million last year.

Go Ahead boss David Brown insisted his firm “doesn’t make any money” from its 65 percent stake in Govia. But Grayling’s department pays it a fixed fee to run GTR, Britain’s biggest franchise.

Southern trousered another £27 million last year. That was its share of the £81 million compensation rail operators got from Network Rail for delays that they didn’t pass on to passengers.

It doesn’t matter how bad Govia’s service is, the Tories’ favourite rail firm is given a pass. They even changed the rules so it could increase cancellations by another third earlier this year.

Bosses blame train guards’ “unprecedented sickness levels” for their dismal performance.

Reinstated

This was always a lie, which was confirmed last Monday when Southern reinstated 119 of the 341 services it had cut on 11 July. Many of the reinstated services were driver only operated (DOO).

These rail parasites are in cahoots with the Tories. Brown admitted “a large part” of GTR’s franchise is to introduce new trains and “modernise working practices”.

This lies behind RMT union train guards’ walkout this week against extending DOO.

The rail unions stand in the way of this attack but have not yet fought as effectively as they could. This is partly due to bosses’ use of anti-union laws to frustrate action.

The Aslef train drivers’ union has been taken to the courts twice to stop strikes. Aslef’s latest strike ballot was suspended at the end of August under threat of more legal action.

The RMT suspended a strike by station staff, which was also set for this Wednesday. The union said it had secured a six-month trial of bosses’ plans to make cuts at station.

But Ricky, a Southern train dispatcher, questioned the suspension. “It’s not a proper trial if ticket offices are still open and people won’t be asked to work alone while carrying cash,” he said.

“How can you judge what the impact of these things would be? It feels like this is just stalling it for six months.”

He added, “Having the stations out with the guards would have been a very powerful response.”


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