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Rail unions welcome Labour Rail Freight seminar

16 November 2016

The UK's four rail unions, TSSA, Unite, RMT and ASLEF will meet with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Transport Minister, Andy McDonald this (Wednesday) afternoon to discuss the fate of British freight.

The unions are all keen to find a means to relieve the current plight of Britains' rail freight infrastructure following DB Cargo's announcement of 900 job losses last month.

They will press Labour to support union calls to take back control of Britain's leading rail freight company from Germany's state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn even temporarily - to both underwrite the future of the sector as a vital component of an integrated, much-needed post-Brexit industrial strategy.

DB Cargo (UK) Limited who own more 70% of our freight industry say it must be fully restructured in the wake of the steel crisis, the sharp drop off in coal freight because of EU carbon emission taxing and because of uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

Says TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes:

"We welcome the focus Labour's front bench are bringing to the plight of our freight industry. It is such a strategically important industrial asset that we simply cannot afford for it to be run down according to the priorities set by German government's rail chiefs.

"Jobs are being culled and the latest job losses will further erode our national skill base which is so hard to retrieve once lost. Proposals to sell off depots and land will erase the sites for future freight hubs and adversely affect the maintenance of our railways themselves, as these depots house ballast and materials vital to track maintenance.

"TSSA supported staying in Europe to protect jobs and workers rights but if Theresa May triggers Article 50 without putting in place a plan to also take back control of our rail freight industry, then all the Tory talk of taking back control of our country is hollow and UK freight will remain part of Germany's state-owned infrastructure."

Says ASLEF General Secretary, Mick Whelan:

‘‘We are now at the point of no return for freight in the UK where, after the collapse of false competition, and with millions going abroad, we are threatened with collapse by the German operator DB Cargo. The government has not responded to our letters, or concerns on what will happen, not only to the freight sector, but to the maintenance of the infrastructure.

" Is the whole rail industry in Britain to be allowed to slip into decline? The silence of all the major stakeholders speaks volumes about the chaos that is about to ensue, with no plans, no strategy, and no support from a government that does not care, and a public that is unaware of how close to the brink we are."

Says Unite Regional Officer, Kevin Hepworth:

“Without a rail freight network fit for the 21st century the government’s much promised industrial strategy is in danger of hitting the buffers. Manufacturers will be forced to transport their goods and raw materials by road, meaning more heavy lorries and more congestion for the nation’s drivers.

"Government ministers need to intervene to ensure the drastic consequences of DB Cargo cuts aren’t realised and that hundreds of skilled workers are not lost to an industry which is integral to our manufacturing future.”

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