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We're fighting for a better railway...

2 March 2012

Rail workers face tough times. Last year Sir Roy McNulty released his report 'Realising the Potential of GB Rail - Report on the Rail Value for Money Study'. But workers in TOC will be pushing back on many fronts to defend jobs and services.

Save Our Railways

This proposes drastic cuts to staff at stations, staff on trains and pushes for more power to be given to the Train Operating Companies (TOCs). It also calls for an even greater fragmentation of the industry. Shortly afterwards, Train Operating Companies, Freight Operating Companies and Network Rail joined together in an unprecedented move to form the ‘Rail Delivery Group’ and developed an ‘Initial Industry Plan’, which outlines how the TOCs and others are going to implement recommendations from the McNulty Report and other changes that will benefit their shareholders. Meanwhile, the Government has not yet even released their views on the content of the McNulty Report – having postponed it several times, this is now due in March.

Our key question is whether the proposed changes would make our railway better or worse? Whether it’s the McNulty Report, the Rail Delivery Group’s own Initial Industry Plan or the long- awaited response from government, if we don’t intensify our fight for a better railway, we can only expect to see a further deterioration of our system, with cuts and destructive changes going unchallenged.

TSSA's TOC National Council has taken on the challenge to fight against cuts to staff, increases to fares, decreases in services for the public and the further fragmentation of the railway. To explain the issues they feel are most important for TSSA members and the community, our TOC National Council representatives share their own stories and why we need to fight the cuts and fight for a better railway.

Staff our stations


Staff play a vital role in customer service and safety at stations. Proposed cuts to staff at stations and the closure of ticket offices will result in a significant decrease in the level of service for the public. As many as 675 station ticket offices are under threat of closure, with staff being replaced by ticket vending machines (TVM). A TUC report estimates that tens of thousands of front line staff on stations and trains will lose their jobs under the McNulty recommendations, making rail travel less safe, less accessible, whilst at the same time yet more expensive as fares dramatically increase.

S Neagle

TOC National Council Representative Steven Neagle tells us how station platform staff make a difference to safety:

‘I’ve stood on the platform on several occasions where I’ve witnessed staff stopping people from committing suicide in front of trains. I’ve done it myself and if staff are not there on the platforms to stop that – if they take away those staff – then that’s putting people at risk. If they do actually start removing station staff then there’s not going to be anyone there to stop that. You’ll also see an increase in timid people standing on platforms not wanting to be there – they are going to stop travelling which is going to impact the railways in the long term.’

We need to fight cuts to station staff and as part of this, we want to know what you – and the wider community – think makes a good station! If we talk to our family, friends and other members of our communities for their views about reductions to station staff this helps us add their voices to our fight for a better railway. Read our ‘Get Active’ section on page 15 to find out about our postcard survey on what people want in their local stations. Or check out our campaign information online at www.tssa.org.uk/better-rail.

Reduction in station staff will impact even more greatly on vulnerable rail users and those who need special assistance. Members have been raising concerns over the recently introduced need for some travellers to call a premium rate number in order to get the support they need for their journey. This will impact the ability for disabled people to travel, as will cuts to station staff.

M Litchfield

‘I have a big link with customers who go on our trains. I sell them tickets I also dispatch their trains and work on the gate line and deal with their ticket problems. I think that in the future with the McNulty report we are going to find that staff are going to be reduced from platforms and customers will have to talk to a machine – they won’t get any level of service from a machine – they will just be issued a ticket and they’ll have to find their own way on the platforms and onto the trains.’

‘We have what’s called an Assisted Passenger System, where people that need assistance onto a train contact our customer centre and they arrange for a member of staff to be there to help passengers get on the train and also arrange for them to be collected when they arrive. With staffing being reduced in the future there will be no staff that will be able to help the disabled people onto the train, to advise whereabouts on the train they are and to contact the next station to help them off.’

Michael Litchfield TOC National Council Representative

M Hill

‘I’m a travel advisor. I’ve been on the railway now for 21 years and I’ve seen a great deal of change in them 21 years – especially through privatisation. I have a lot of interaction with deaf customers because I’m the only person at the station that can do sign language. When I’m there and there are deaf customers around, some do wait for me, sometimes the staff actually come and fetch me because they know I can sign so it makes it easier for them. I recently had a letter of praise from a deaf customer for signing, which I thought was really nice and it just proves that if McNulty does come into force they’re going to lose people like me who are there to help people and there will be nobody there to help the deaf or disabled when we have gone.’

Martin Hill, TOC National Council and Learning Representative

Fares


More passengers are using our trains than at any time since the 1920s. However, as services and jobs are being cut and the ConDem Government reduces financial support for our railway, they expect passengers to pay ever-increasing fares, resulting in increases of inflation + 3 per cent over the next three years. As Together for Transport, a community organising campaign established by the TSSA say on their website, ‘Many people are already feeling the effect of higher prices, coupled with wages that fail to keep up with inflation. Obscene increases that amount to a ‘Rail Tax’ will only drive people away – and back to their climate busting cars.’

This is a sentiment reflected in twitter messages from the public in the Together for Transport campaign #FareFail which saw 3,000 angry messages directed at the Treasury for their role in increasing ticket prices.

Fares increases are a key issue for the public as well as for members – all the more galling whilst TOCs are making tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer-subsidised profits on the back of our fares. E-mix member and TOC National Council Representative Manjit Gill explains why it’s important to involve our communities in our campaign to fight against fare increases and for a better railway:

‘The importance is to raise awareness with passengers and the wider community of our campaign to lower transport costs, which as they increase, restricts movement of people looking for jobs, families meeting each other and holiday-makers using their leisure times to visit the country.’

M Gill

Manjit and his local action group took part in the Together for Transport’s ‘Great Train Fares Robbery’ action in November, distributing 5000 postcards about fare increases to passengers and the general public.

‘They have gone to TSSA members, family members, two trades councils, five Gurdwara [Sikh temple] leaders, student groups from all universities, colleges and also to local taxi drivers who have done great work distributing the cards to customers and the general public. There’s been a great reaction... the public are angry at the continued rail and transport charge rises and they are happy to join our campaign.’

Safe to work, safe to travel


A safer railway is a better railway. Cuts that will affect the safety of rail travel have been recommended to the government, most notably the reduction of station and on-train staff and the increase in Driver Only Operation (DOO) trains. This means it will be increasingly common for there to be no train guards or platform staff to help passengers board a train or to dispatch trains safely. Stations may become less safe for waiting passengers, who will have no-one to turn to if there is a safety issue.

B Hughes

‘I’m the first point of contact with passengers on trains and there’s been many a time where there’s been service disruptions and I’ve had to deal with passengers on platforms. They are quite happy they can talk to somebody – rather than not speak to anyone or speak to a machine on the wall. When you see somebody face to face it makes it much easier – and if anything has gone wrong you can step in, intervene and help. Any face is better than no face at all!’

Bob Hughes TSSA TOC Company Representative

TOC National Council representative Gerry Higgins has been working in the railway for 29 years and is currently a Resource Manager in the Control Room. Gerry’s story highlights how teamwork between train and station staff helps save lives:

G Higgins

‘During the festivities of Christmas and New Year I had a conductor phoning me from a train saying that they had a drunk passenger and he was putting her off at a station that was unstaffed. A drunk female... I switched on the TV cameras for the station... I advised Network Rail about this very drunk female and put a caution on the line just to be seeing where she was at the station. We observed her coming down the stairs on the platform and she stumbled and fell on the track, knocked herself out.

Now if that wasn’t for the teamwork and the conductor phoning myself, me then contacting Network Rail – actually even getting the TV cameras switched back on, a train could have gone in there and come over the person. Instead the ambulance was called, the trains were halted, the passengers at the station were told to leave her until the ambulance arrived. The person was fit and well and eventually she got up and into an ambulance and got taken to hospital. I thought that was a good story for teamwork.’

J Fisher

Many British Transport Police are also TSSA members and play a crucial role in providing safe travel. They work together with station staff, to ensure safety at stations and on trains.

‘Passengers get a perception of safety if they see someone in uniform, BTP or station staff. A visible presence of a person in authority is always reassuring. We work with station staff as a compliment to their hard work – we are not there to replace them. Staff on stations are primarily our first point of contact, usually they see an issue and are the first to liaise with us. Station staff can see an issue before it’s raised, see a situation with the eyes of experience, they can see an issue they know is going to escalate before anyone else is aware of it.’

Johanne Fisher BTP Local Safety Representative

A quality public service


Transport is an essential public service for our community. Yet our railway remains privatised and both the proposed changes and those already being implemented by TOCs will further privatise and fragment the system. TSSA supports public ownership of our railways as we believe a publically owned and operated railway is a better railway, one that is a service for the people, not a profit maker for shareholders. With the Tory- led Government imposing cuts across the public sector, slashing and capping benefits and privatising NHS services, it is no surprise that increasing fares and decreasing services to rail passengers is also on their agenda.

As an active member of the International Transport Federation, TSSA supports the global campaign for Quality Public Services as it recognises access to affordable transport as a fundamental need for all. We are also active in the fight against the Tory/LibDem Government cuts, by supporting public service workers in their fight to keep their jobs and protect and develop the communities of our members.

You can find out more about the Quality Public Services Campaign on www.qpsactionnow.org and www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/ QPSActionDay2011.cfm.

 

Get active in our fight for a better railway

The union is only as strong as its members are willing to make it – so that means we need you! Your TOC National Council have put together a range of campaign activities so that everyone can get involved in the fight for a better railway.
There are many ways you can get involved in our campaign. Here are a few of the campaign activities you can get active in now:

Stations postcard

Postcard survey – ‘A perfect station’
Our aim is to gather opinions from our friends, family, community and the general station-using public, as to what they think makes
a good station. This will help us campaign for better services, to protect face to face staff at stations and to build a better railway.

What do I need to do?
1. Think about who you will ask to complete a postcard, order some from raen@tssa.org.uk or online at www.tssa.org.uk/ better-rail.
2. Approach the people you know, friends, family, your faith community or others, ask them to complete the postcard survey.
3. Collect the postcard back and hand them in to your TSSA rep or organiser, or post them back to TSSA (just put them in the postbox – they are Freepost).

Film Action Group
Do you have a good story to tell like the ones in this article? Do you want to take part in producing short films on the issues affecting our railways? Our TOC National Council has formed a Film Action Group who are producing a series of short films to highlight the impact of McNulty Report and the proposed cuts to the railways will have on our communities. If you would like to get involved, contact Ricky on jonesr@tssa.org.uk.

Other ideas
What you can do to get active in the fight for a better railway:

  • Come to a TSSA campaign training event
  • Ask your workmates to come to a TSSA meeting
  • Sign the petition to save our stations on www.togetherfortransport.org/content/ staff-our-stations-sign-petition
  • Tweet your thoughts on fare increases on #farefail
  • Form a Local Action Group, a team of your workmates, friends or family who want to get active in our campaign activities
  • Meet with your local MP or councillors
  • Write to your local newspaper
  • Hold a community meeting to discuss transport issues in your local area

Your Company Council can:

  • Raise the issues in this article at your next meeting with the company
  • Ask your TOC for an official position on the McNulty report
  • Request information from your TOC including numbers of staff at each of their stations, potential job losses if there are ticket office closures, financial accounts, etc.
  • Check if any of the issues in this article affect your TOC members
  • Log your issues online at www.tssa.org.uk/better-rail
  • Conduct a workplace survey
  • Hold a workplace meeting
  • Attend a TSSA campaign training event
  • Map your stations
  • Talk to other workers about this article, staffing cuts, fare increases, safety concerns, cuts in services to the public.

If you want to get involved but are not sure how or need some support, email Nadine raen@tssa.org.uk.
Not a rep? Not part of the Company Council? For more information talk to your local representatives or contact Nadine on raen@tssa.org.uk.

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