TRANSPORT UNION RMT today demanded the renationalisation of the Great Western franchise as it emerged that the government will handing an extension to FirstGroup, underwritten by a multimillion-pound taxpayer subsidy, on the bogus grounds of delays with issuing tender documents.
The latest scandalous and expensive fiasco on Great Western comes despite First Group having served notice on the contract to avoid a payout of more than £800 million to the government.
The next contract for the franchise was due to begin on 1 April next year but rail industry sources say it is likely to be put back to the summer because of what the government are spinning are delays in issuing tender documents. As an indicator of the level of the chaos dogging the process the Department for Transport has refused to confirm a new start date.
As a result, despite pulling the pin on the contract to dodge £800 million of payments due to the taxpayer, trains will continue to be operated by FirstGroup, with multi-million pound public subsidies.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that Department of Transport was pushing back the start of the new franchise from April 1 to an unspecified date because of the chaos caused by the McNulty threat to jobs and services, pressure from MPs along the route and a massive delay in the Inter-City fleet replacement programme.
This latest fiasco on Britains railways will cost the taxpayer a small fortune and will have First Group laughing all the way to the bank as they benefit from a multi-million pound windfall on the back of this shambles. The case for renationalising to avoid this kind of franchising chaos is now overwhelming if the tax-payer is funding this route then why shouldnt they own it?
The campaign against the McNulty report has hit home with a lot of Lib Dem and Tory MPs in the West Country and there is disquiet about the extent of the job losses and ticket office closures, which is undermining backbenchers support for the franchise bidding process as they recognise the public outrage at the poisonous combination of cuts and profiteering , Bob Crow said.