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RMT protests against subsidising European rail services

A Northern Rail train at Pudsey station. Northern Rail is part owned by a Dutch state company. Photo Workers.

As part of its activity around the General Election, rail union RMT has organised a series of protests across the north of England highlighting the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds paid by British rail passengers will be going to subsidise rail services in other parts of Europe.

Transpennine Express (already part owned by French nationalised railway SNCF) and Northern Rail (part owned by Dutch state company NS) have already creamed off almost £400 million, money that could have been used for cheaper fares, new trains and more rail staff to assist passengers.

With the Northern Rail franchise now up for grabs, the shortlisted bidders are the Dutch, French and German state railways. RMT says that British passengers are being used as “cash-cows” to hold down fares and improve services for railways in France, Netherlands and Germany. Transpennine Express will also soon be refranchised with the same bidders jumping on the gravy train.

The union expects whoever wins the new franchise to suck up even bigger profits by cutting rail services and staff, with passengers crammed into overcrowded, driver only operated trains, paying the most expensive rail fares in Europe.

Put passengers first

RMT members have taken to the streets and rail stations across the north with a clear message that it is time to put passengers first and for the public to sign up for a publicly owned People’s Railway to serve the region. RMT demands that every penny that is put into the railway will be invested in the railway, fair fares for passengers, new trains and more and better services, guards on trains to ensure the safety of passengers, and proper staffing for stations and ticket offices.

The union is also seeking proper democratic oversight of the region’s railways by communities and local councils, instead of rail policy in the north being dictated by private and foreign companies, and has launched a petition calling for a publicly owned people’s railway in the north of England. To sign, go to http://tinyurl.com/p8wm29c

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “For all the posturing and hot air about a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ from Obsorne and Cameron the reality is not only rail services starved of resources and locked in the slow lane but one where European rail operators are being given the green light to bleed Northern and TPE dry to subsidise their domestic operations. That is rail privatisation in action.

“RMT has been out on the streets for nearly a year now engaging the public and getting a fantastic response from the public. In this final push in the run up to polling day we intend to ensure that the carve-up of rail services in the North remains a major issue in this election.”