Congress notes with growing alarm:
i. The government intends to cut £2bn from rail industry support, which will possibly see the loss of at least 10,000 railway jobs and cuts to many services.
ii. While the coronavirus has rightly been the focus for governments around the world over the last two years, the climate change crisis has not disappeared.
iii. Climate change is increasingly out of control, while ahead of the UN’s decisive COP26 conference in Glasgow, the UK government claims to be showing climate leadership to the world.
a. The financial cost of this pandemic cannot be met with more failed austerity measures, but by growing our economy. We must grow our economy in a way that not only doesn’t exacerbate the climate crisis, but indeed reduces carbon emissions.
b. At 1 per cent, rail is the lowest contributor to transport carbon emissions and will play a significant part in meeting the climate change challenge. Rail freight results in an average of 76 per cent lower emissions than the equivalent road journey.
c. Instead of recognising the long-term national interest, the Tory government is concerned with the short-term expediency of clawing back its coronavirus pandemic support to rail, just at a time when it should be encouraging people back onto rail.
d. Public transport use collapsed during the pandemic, with the majority of leisure and commuter travel disappearing as lockdowns took place and people were told to stay at home. It remains to be seen whether the pandemic has had a long-term effect on how we work.
e. The loss of jobs and services to cut support are not matched by the government’s continuing desire for private sector involvement in rail that will add to costs and fragmentation.
f. The cuts may only be the start, with further change to come following the announcement in May of wholesale restructuring of the industry by 2023.
g. The burden will continue to increasingly fall on passengers through above-inflation fare hikes that build on the 48 per cent real terms increase since 1997.
h. Once rail infrastructure is allowed to diminish, and our capacity reduces, it is far harder to get it back. That is why we must work to ensure the temporary reduction in passenger numbers does not lead to long-term decline of our network.
Mindful of these facts, Congress calls on the General Council to:
1. campaign for more rail investment, not cuts
2. draw attention to the government’s inconsistencies on rail and climate change
3. centre investment in low-carbon transport to ensure a future green economy
4. campaign for the safe return of passengers to public transport.
Seconder: Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association