RAIL UNION RMT said today that it will mount an all-out fight to defend an estimated 500 jobs that the unions says are threatened by the new merged Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise due to come into operation later next year.
Under the Invitation To Tender document produced by the Government for the service it is made clear that they intend to follow the McNulty Rail Review cuts recommendations and axe all guards from the new combined franchise and move the entire operation over to Driver Only Operation.
In addition, there are unspecified cuts to ticket offices and station staffing that will only be quantified fully in the confidential tender submissions from approved bidders and which are impossible to calculate. However, there are 400 guards jobs immediately at risk with scores more jobs certain to come into the firing line on the stations and platforms as the bidders seek to cut the headcount and exploit the lucrative London commuter routes for every penny that they can regardless of the implications for service quality and public safety.
The combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise is due to come into operation in September 2014 having been delayed off the back of the West Coast franchising fiasco. The approved bidders, who will now be making secret submissions to the Government, are Abellio, FirstGroup, Govia, MTR and Stagecoach.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“The invitation to tender for the new combined London commuter routes makes it crystal clear that guards are to be thrown off all the services with the whole lot moved over to Driver Only Operation, threatening jobs, safety and quality of service purely in the interests of private greed. There are also secretive plans to dump other groups of staff as well.
“The services covered by this new franchise charge some of the highest fares and both trains and platforms are constantly rammed solid, reinforcing the critical safety role of the train and station staff in preventing accidents, crushing and the lethal prospect of passengers being squeezed onto the tracks.
“Axing guards and station staff is a lethal gamble with public safety on some of the busiest commuter routes where demand continues to grow forcing more and more people into a system which is already bursting at the seams. The safety implications of that scenario are obvious and these trained and alert staff are the eyes and ears that keep the services running and are on hand to deal with evacuation of crowded carriages and stations in the event of an emergency. The axing of these posts would not only compromise safety but would lead to more delays and disruption as passengers are left to fend for themselves and services grind to a halt.
“RMT will work with passenger groups and our sister unions to fight these outrageous proposals.”