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Safe railways, not shopping malls
Craig Johnston, a member of the transport union RMT in Carlisle recently wrote a letter to his local paper challenging the Tory MP's proposals for station buildings. This is an edited version of his letter.
The Tory MP for Carlisle, John Stevenson wants to see new train operating company franchises given total control over stations. John's reasoning is that the stations can then be transformed into some sort of shopping mall where you can buy anything from a quality book to a smart tie.
I am sure most passengers - and certainly most rail workers in the city are more interested to know Mr Stevenson's views on the biggest topic of discussion in the railway industry at the moment - the McNulty report.
The last Labour government commissioned Sir Roy McNulty to do a review of the costs of our railways - we're told that (to their shame) Labour didn't ask McNulty to look at the benefits of re-nationalisation of the industry and how that could save money.
McNulty has made a number of recommendations - the widespread use of less safe Driver Only Operation for train services, closures of ticket offices, massive cuts in station staffing, more fragmentation and massive fare increases for passengers.
The loss of the frontline customer service roles - coupled with persistent attacks on what's left of things like on-train catering - will mean passengers will pay much more for less facilities, service and quality.
A few weeks ago it was announced that the Office of the Rail Regulator was to prosecute Network Rail over the Grayrigg train crash in our county - the report into the crash blamed unrealistic workloads and bad management for the incident - yet the same regulator is calling for more job cuts on the railway infrastructure. So much for unrealistic workloads!
Meanwhile, the Train Operating Companies continue to divert tax payers' money into the coffers of their shareholders. Some of it is now leaving Britain altogether as the German and Dutch state railways are now major players over here. Cross Country, Arriva Trains Wales and Grand Central, together with much of the freight sector are owned by the German state railways. Northern Rail is a joint venture between Serco and the Dutch National Railway.
While John Stevenson babbles on about more retail opportunities at station outlets - the structure of our railways - and some of the remedies being proposed to sort out the mess of privatisation - are an absolute disaster.
No wonder Mr Stevenson highlights such superficial issues as shopping at stations. It was his party that made this mess in the first place.
In The Socialist 8 February 2012:
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