Current railway system is 'a complete mess'
CONCERNED campaigners are urging the public to "wake up" and stand up to the Government for the sake of the railways.
A depressing picture was painted at the Council House last night of what train services in the region will be like in the future if the Tory-Lib Dem coalition enacts the measures recommended in a report by Sir Roy McNulty, a businessman in charge of a study into improving efficiency and cutting costs in the rail industry.
The Save Your Railway public meeting was organised by the Bristol Trades Union Council and Bristol Labour Group with the main rail unions. About 40 people attended.
Campaigners say they fear the McNulty report would see as many as 20,000 ticket office staff and train guards – a third of the current total – lose their jobs from next year.
They believe this would have major consequences in terms of passenger safety and make service quality worse. They also warn that further privatisation of the railways will lead to even higher ticket prices and fewer rail services as operators are free to chase profits.
The speakers said the McNulty report followed on from the swingeing Beeching cuts of the 1960s and the privatisation of the early 90s in harming the industry.
Alex Gordon, president of the Rail Maritime and Transport Workers' Union, said: "If we do not wake up as a society, it's going to get much worse in very short order."
Blaming all three major political parties for the situation now, he added: "This is an ideological attack on public transport. We need to start turning the tide in this transport debate."
Mr Gordon said the loss of ticket office staff and guards would mean passengers lose out on help and advice when using train services.
Bernard Kennedy, Bristol branch secretary of train drivers' union ASLEF, said the current rail system is "fragmented, disintegrated and a complete and utter mess."
He added: "McNulty wants to further disintegrate it. It's a massive mistake and he's just not looking at the whole picture."
Transport Salaried Staffs' Association executive member Bill Monteith warned of the "absolute catastrophe about to befall the railway industry".
He added: "This is a fight that affects everybody – we need to wake up to that fact."
He said he feared the McNulty recommendations will be implemented "by stealth", by the Government telling the rail operators bidding to take over the various franchises next year what they would expect to see in any bid.
Bristol City Council's Labour Group leader, Peter Hammond, said: "Beeching and McNulty are products of so-called business thinking being applied to a public service. That's the crucial similarity between them."
He said both contained "inherent short-termism" and "dodgy economics".
The speakers urged people to write to their local MPs to voice their concerns in Parliament and join the Action For Rail campaign at www. actionforrail.org.uk.