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The McNulty report: what you need to know

23 October 2011

Rob Jenks writes on the government-comissioned report into rail 'value for money' that could see the biggest shake-up of the industry in decades

SIR ROY MCNULTY’S report into the future of the rail industry was released over the summer. Included in it are a slew of recommendations that would bring wholesale change across the industry. The proposals should be of great concern to everyone who values our railways and wants to improve public transport in Britain.

In line with the Tory-led government’s cuts, the objective of the Report is to find ways to reduce the £4.6 billion subsidy paid to Britain’s privately owned railway companies every year. McNulty claims to have found saving of up to £1 billion to be delivered by 2018.

It should come as no surprise that reducing costs by renationalising rail is ignored. In October, the Transport for Quality of Life think tank revealed that the private train companies make a profit of £1.2 billion – with just this part of the industry taking more out of the rail system than the total of McNulty’s desired savings! They also found that 71 per cent of the population supported a move towards greater public ownership.

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Where does McNulty’s axe fall?

Every railway job is at risk

What McNulty says: “Driver Only Operation (DOO) is a safe method of operation and improves performance, with fewer human interactions involved in the door opening, door closing and dispatch procedure … TOCs should review station staffing as a matter of priority.”

What he means:

  • Cutting all platform staff
  • No guards on trains
  • Network Rail maintenance staff to be cut to 14,000

What McNulty says: “human interfaces [should only be] deployed for complex transactions … passenger security is not necessarily enhanced by the presence of a person in a ticket office.”

What he means:

  • Cutting ticket office staff at 40 per cent of stations in England & Wales
  • Cutting British Transport Police staff
  • Poorer pay and conditions

McNulty has analysed salaries across the industry, noting how they have increased above inflation – including amongst directors – but using figures that many lower-paid members would simply not recognise from their pay packets.

What McNulty says: “Even the granting of inflation-level [pay] increases must be questioned … the timing, length and payment for meal and refreshment breaks [should be reviewed] … the overall trend to reduce continually the length of the working day and the working week is unsustainable.”

What he means:

  • Pay cuts for current and future staff
  • Rewriting terms and conditions

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Fragmentation and deregulation

McNulty raises the possibility of franchises being let for both train operating and infrastructure management.

TSSA members in Network Rail will be only too aware of the constant change as the company reorganises into a decentralised, regionally based organisation. McNulty enthusiastically supports this.

Increasing fares and reducing accountability for passengers McNulty wants to lift the cap on rail fares – already inflation plus 3 per cent – making passengers pay even more. His report also proposes abolishing Passenger Focus and removing the need for train operating companies to consult with the public and gain ministerial approval to make cuts – for example, to ticket offices.

How will the government enact McNulty’s findings? The simple answer is that they have already begun. Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport, may sidestep legislation altogether. The ‘Rail Delivery Group’ – made up of employers - has already produced an Initial Industry Plan that would cut £1.3 billion out of the industry by 2019.

Help us defeat McNulty's plans The proposals of the McNulty report represent the most serious attack on the railway industry in a generation. TSSA has no intention of backing down: our members must stand united to stop McNulty’s plan being taken up by the government. Join us in this fight today” said Manuel Cortes, TSSA Assistant General Secretary.

The trade unions have united to fight against the McNulty report, beginning with the lobby of Parliament held on 25 October and continuing with many other actions up and down the country.

TSSA is building alliances with affected community groups so that we are stronger in our dealings with the companies who will be implementing much of McNulty, the first example being the ‘Save our Stations’ campaign. Join Save our Railways through TSSA’s Together for Transport Campaign – visit to get involved.

The McNulty Report can be read in full at



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