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First Great Western set to win new franchise after 'union busting' row

16 February 2015

Labour and Lib Dem MPs condemn "Worst Great Western" over lack of social responsibility

First Great Western came under fire from MPs today as the franchise dubbed "Worst Great Western" looks set to get a four year contract extension without any outside competition.

Labour MPs bluntly accused the firm of currying favour with the Tory Government by "union bashing" over its plan to de-recognise the TSSA rail union for managerial staff.
And West Country Lib Dems also backed a Commons Early Day Motion supporting the union's campaign against the proposed cutbacks at one of the biggest franchises in the UK.
The MPs warned the rail firm that it must accept "social responsibility" towards it staff and passengers after receiving £7 billion in public investment for upgrading and modernising Brunel's iconic Paddington to Cardiff route via Bristol.*

The DfT is expected to grant a new franchise extension of up to four years to FGW next month. Its current contract runs out in September. It has now lost its last five contested bids, including those it ran at First ScotRail and First Capital Connect.
The EDM follows a meeting in the House of Commons between union officials and MPs representing constituencies along the route which will see £2.2 billion Hitachi high speed trains come into service in 2017. The new trains will not include buffet cars, which, critics say, will hit standard class passengers while costing on board catering staff their jobs.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: "It seems incredible that FGW are receiving over £7 billion(*) of public investment between 2014 and 2019 and yet they want to cut staffing levels and de-recognise my union for managerial grades.

"They are the first rail firm in history to suffer a passengers strike and they have increased fares by more than any another firm since privatisation, a staggering 246% on the Paddington to Bristol route. No wonder passengers call them "Worst Great Western". And yet this Government is granting them a new franchise without any rival firms being allowed to bid."

Geraint Davies, Labour Swansea MP and sponsor of the EDM, said: "If you are unfortunate enough to experience a heart attack, violence, or even if you just want a bacon sandwich, then things are going to get a lot worse if you a standard class passenger on FGW.

"By axing staff and de-recognising the managers union, it means there are going to be fewer staff to give passengers a helping hand when they really need one.

"As taxpayers shell out billions for track and stations-and pay through the nose for their tickets-it looks like FGW will cream off profits by cutting services and jobs and also get rewarded by the Tories for some good old fashioned union bashing. The whole thing stinks."


Editor's Notes;

* Public investment includes DfT buying Hitachi train fleet (£2.2 billion), Network Rail electrification of route, (£1.6 billion) and new stations, including those at Reading, Oxford, ad Bristol Temple Meads (£1.5 billion) .

** EDM number 798 on the Commons Order Paper.

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