Socialist Worker

Rail workers set for coordinated walkout after new Network Rail safety threat

Issue No. 2548

Network Rail workers carrying out track maintenance - bosses have cut plans for further upgrade work

Network Rail workers carrying out track maintenance - bosses have cut plans for further upgrade work (Pic: Elliott Brown/Flickr)


RMT union members on Northern, Southern and Merseyrail were set for a coordinated strike this Saturday.

The action is against the removal of guards from trains—known as Driver Only Operation (DOO)—which makes travel less safe and hits jobs.

The strikes, particularly the one on Merseyside on Grand National day, will hit hard.

And Aslef union drivers this week rejected their leadership’s second shoddy deal with Southern bosses by 52 percent.

The deal would have accepted the extension of DOO.

Southern driver Martin told Socialist Worker, “There is a push among the membership to restart industrial action. We need to resume action now.”

Two stories last week underlined why Tories can’t be trusted with the railways.

First, a leaked letter from a senior Network Rail official revealed Tory funding cuts mean “there is simply not enough money left” in current budgets to do vital rail track maintenance.

The renewal of crucial ballast—the thick gravel that helps to constrain tracks under heavy traffic and drain water—has been cut on several routes.

Tough

The letter predicted “a tough couple of years for the whole industry” and a heavy cost for workers employed by firms carrying out work for Network Rail.

The RMT said 1,000 jobs could be threatened.

The Tories already want to “devolve” responsibility for track renewals to the rail fat cats. They hope to turn Network Rail, the public body in charge, into “a network of local businesses”.

The second story is linked to the first. Transport minister Chris Grayling is pushing further privatisation.

The award of the next South West Trains franchise last week was the first under Grayling’s new plan.

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First MTR won the franchise—and its first act was to dump £200 million worth of new trains and order new ones.

Newly-refurbished carriages, which can only be used on southern England’s rail system, are destined to sit on sidings indefinitely.

The rolling stock firms that own the fleet will benefit. Yet passengers will pick up the tab through fare rises.

The move could mean that First MTR intends to extend DOO and is ordering more trains fitted for that purpose.

Ramming through DOO puts safety at risk. That’s why everyone must get behind the strikes on Saturday.


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