Monday, February 05, 2007
SOUTH WEST TRAINS FRANCHISE
RAIL PASSENGERS and workers on South West Trains are set to become the latest victims of the great railway squeeze as the privateer’s new franchise gets under way, Britain’s biggest rail union warns today. Private operator Stagecoach will have to squeeze more cash out of rail passengers and literally squeeze ever more people onto its trains if it is to meet franchise payments and satisfy its own shareholders’ demands for profits, RMT said. “SWT has already been ripping seats and toilets out to squeeze more passengers on, and those lucky enough to get a seat are likely to be jammed five abreast in suburban trains utterly unsuited to longer journeys,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today. “At the same time, passengers are suffering inflation-busting fare increases every year, while passengers on state-owned railways elsewhere in Europe pay a fraction of the cost – and are more likely to find a seat. “The £1.3 billion GNER franchise was a spectacular failure and First Great Western had to apologise for provoking its passengers into open revolt, yet the government is sticking to a franchising system that has failed by every measure. “Now SWT is expected to cough up more than £1.5 billion in premiums over the next decade – and Stagecoach’s shareholders also expect to squeeze up to £200 million in profits out of it. “That means passengers being squeezed ever harder, in both senses of the word, and our members at the sharp end suffering more and more from stress, abuse and assaults. “The economy and the environment both demand a transport policy that encourages people out of their cars and onto trains, but the only way to achieve that is to create more rail capacity, not cattle trucks. “We can only begin to do that if the railway network is run for its passengers, and not as a cash cow, and that means bringing South West Trains back into public ownership, Bob Crow said.