Congress believes the collapse of Carillion, a major rail contractor; the failure of Virgin/Stagecoach on the East Coast Line; the rail timetable chaos (which also led to increased threat of assaults against rail workers); and loss of skilled rail jobs has shown again that the privatisation and fragmentation of our railways and public services has been an abject failure. Congress recognises that Britain’s railways are in trouble after continued bungling and buck-passing by the government’s transport secretary.
The introduction of new passenger timetables in May 2018 saw hundreds of train services cancelled or delayed on Northern and Thameslink, disrupting the daily lives of thousands of passengers. The minister blamed the publicly owned Network Rail when one of the main causes for the problem was the Department for Transport’s refusal to allow a pause on introducing the new timetables.
This way of running Britain’s railways characterises the government’s ineptitude whereby:
i. Conservative dogma re-privatised the highly successful East Coast franchise in 2015, only for it to fail for a third time and be returned to public ownership in June 2018.
ii. Electrification projects have been scaled back, especially in the north of England, perpetuating the antiquated rail network there, and incurring additional expense for diesel engines in less environmentally friendly bi-mode trains.
iii. There has been a failure to attract private sector investment, resulting in taxpayer-funded subsidies of £34.7bn between 2019 and 2024.
Despite this, Network Rail is apparently being prepared to be fragmented and privatised, which could see industry standards relaxed to attract private investors, raising the spectre of the safety failings of Railtrack.
Even though these rail policy disasters have taken place under Chris Grayling he has refused to take any responsibility and Congress supports the growing calls for Chris Grayling to resign.
Congress also notes the government has been behind protracted disputes to introduce Driver Only Operation and has persistently attacked rail unions, including shamefully seeking to blame hard-pressed rail workers for massive fare hikes.
Despite these attacks, rail workers, who remain constant public servants while privatised rail companies come and go, have continued to do their best to protect safety and service on the railway. This includes taking principled action to keep guards on trains.
Congress pays tribute and sends full solidarity to these workers.
Congress therefore reiterates its support for nationalisation of the railways and calls on the General Council to:
a. campaign for properly funded, integrated, publicly owned rail and tube networks, which:
– ends outsourcing, bringing core functions such as catering, cleaning and renewals and track/train maintenance in-house
– makes for optimum access for older and disabled passengers
– ensures the involvement of rail workers through their unions in overseeing the running of the railway.
b. oppose rail privatisation and support public ownership of our railways
c. campaign to keep Network Rail as one entity in the public sector
d. establish a cross-union working group to progress transition plans for transport and other sectors.
Mover: National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers
Seconder: Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association