RAIL UNION RMT confirmed last Friday that it is gearing up for a renewed campaign to defend jobs and services on the prestige West Coast route, as strong signals point to First Group winning the franchise from Virgin in a Government announcement expected early this week.
Industry reports suggest that First Group have based their bid on the same kind of over-geared financial projections that lead to the collapse of the GNER and National Express contracts on the East Coast – forcing the Government to renationalise the service.
RMT negotiators have also been informed by the fleet maintenance company, Alstom, that the winning West Coast bid is likely to include a wholesale reconfiguration of the rolling stock with shops and catering removed to lever in more seating capacity, putting up to 800 train crew jobs on the block.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“Whoever wins the West Coast route next week, and all the signs point to First Group, they should be left in no doubt that RMT will mount a massive industrial, political and public campaign to stop any attacks on our members jobs and the services that they provide to the travelling public.
“From the leaked figures it is clear that this franchise in being let on pure McNulty terms with a gold-plated, 12 year contract linked to massive cuts to jobs and passenger services and huge increases in fares as the winning bidder battles to extract every penny that they can in profit.
“RMT will work with MP’s and communities along the West Coast route to stop the savage assault on staffing levels and budgets that we expect to be at the core of this new franchise arrangement.
“The new West Coast deal in an exercise in casino franchising that lays bare the whole sordid enterprise which is rail privatisation. Companies promise the earth, jack up fares and slash jobs and services in a drive for profits and if the numbers don’t stack up they throw back the keys and expect the public sector to pick up the pieces.”