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Friday, 11 July 2014

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Union leader raises fears for rail jobs on West Coast Mainline

Dozens of rail jobs could hinge on the outcome of a multi-million pound contest to pick the next company running train services on the West Coast Mainline, it has been claimed.

Craig Johnston photo
Craig Johnston

That’s the message from Craig Johnston, Carlisle’s full-time rail union chief, who has echoed concerns made by Bob Crow, leader of the national Rail, Maritime and Transport Worker’s Union (RMT).

The 14-year franchise to run services on the train lines between Glasgow, Carlisle and London, will be picked this month by the Government.

Existing operator Virgin holds the contract until December 9, having run it since privatisation in the 1990s.

It along with newcomer, Aberdeen-based First Group, are the two front-runners bidding, which would see the winner pay around £2 billion to the Government over the franchise lifetime.

But the RMT claim rail industry insiders say First Group are in pole position and would introduce 20 per cent cost cuts along the route.

Mr Johnston says that if this is the case, it would impact on the 150 or so workers across stations at Carlisle, Penrith and Oxenholme.

He said: “It looks from the information that we are receiving that First Group is the preferred bidder.

“We have learned that a rail company has been trying to get costings to rip out onboard shops and catering services.

“If Virgin wins the contract, for us that will be bad enough. It’s ridiculous a company like First Group can come in and make a fast buck. We have already lost jobs at Carlisle ticket office.”

He believes onboard crew like train managers and shop staff serving the public, as well as employees welcoming and arriving trains on platforms and those serving passengers in ticket offices along the three main stops could be hit.

Mr Johnston added that it would also put the Catering Depot based at Carlisle Railway Station at risk which services stopping trains with food, drink and staff.

Niall Dodds, of First Group, refused to be drawn on the issue or challenge Mr Johnstone’s claims.Mr Dodds said: “We do not comment on speculation or market rumours of any kind. All decisions relating to the tendering of rail franchises are the responsibility of the Department for Transport (DoT).”

Ian Napier, of the DoT, said: “We are currently evaluating bids for the West Coast franchise and as it is a live competition we will not be making any comment on this matter.”

Have your say

Well theres a surprise, union leaders stirring things and putting fear into peoples minds again. The unions are causing this country more trouble than they are worth at the moment, they are hindering rather than helping.

Posted by dave the rave on 4 August 2012 at 11:21

Here's a radical idea - why don't we take it into public ownership and run it for the benefit of the people on a not for profit basis?

Posted by e on 4 August 2012 at 10:38

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