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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Rail union protests over changes to train network

Campaigners are setting up stalls outside railway stations across Cumbria as part of protests against changes to the train network.

Carlisle rail station photo
The Citadel railway station, Carlisle

The RMT union is campaigning against plans to introduce driver-only operated trains, which it claims are less safe, cuts to station staff and ticket office closures.

The first of the protests got underway at Windermere Railway Station yesterday. Campaigners will be outside Carlisle’s Citadel Station on Monday, between 7am and 9am. They will be handing out postcards opposing proposals from the Department of Transport and Rail North for the future of the TransPennine Express and Northern Rail franchises.

A consultation on the future of these rail franchises ends on August 18 and they are urging rail users across the area to make their voices heard.

The RMT claims the proposals are a threat to jobs, services and safety. It wants to put a stop to the proposals, which could include introducing driver-only trains on the Northern franchise, reducing ticket office opening times, cutting back support staff and increasing fares.

Craig Johnston, the RMT rail union’s regional organiser, said they are particularly concerned about what will happen if trains in the area lose their guards.

“In Carlisle, where there is a depot of 20-plus guards, the threat of driver-only operation is really acute,” he said. “We believe the role of the guard is essential because it means there’s a fully operational and safety-trained guard on every train. It’s clearly less safe not to have that.

“If anything happens to the driver you need someone who is trained to deal with it, to evacuate the train and deal with signalling. If a train derails it can affect other lines.

“Also if you haven’t got a fully operational guard you could end up with a situation where you might not have any second person on board. Just the driver and passengers. If you want to protect safety defend the role of the guard.”

The union also warns that Windermere, Kendal and the rest of the Lakes could lose their direct Transpennine Express link to Lancaster, Preston and Manchester Airport. Meanwhile Barrow could also lose its direct services along the Furness peninsula.

Westmorland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron has already signed a House Of Commons Early Day Motion opposing the proposals.

Mick Cash, from the RMT, said: “RMT is stepping up the fight to both inform the public and fight the savage cuts being lined up for these Northern rail franchises. We have been getting fantastic support, thousands of postcards have been distributed and political and public pressure is growing.”

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