GHOST STATIONS AND A DYSTOPIAN FUTURE! – RMT staff survey reveals dangers of Tory rail cuts

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Rail unions protest at Hammersmith warning of the dangers of station staff cuts

A MASSIVE staff survey carried out by the RMT railway workers union reveals the dystopian future awaiting passengers if the industry privateers and the government are allowed to force their rail cuts through.

Rail workers paint a chilling picture of the future awaiting passengers if the brutal cuts being proposed by the industry and the Tory government are implemented.

RMT conducted the survey asking rail workers what they thought would be the impact on passengers of the plans to close ticket offices, cut track and infrastructure maintenance, run trains under Driver Only operation, cut jobs across the industry and introduce more ‘multi-functional roles’.

More than 10,000 rail workers responded to the survey in just five days, with overwhelming majorities saying that they would worsen the passenger experience on trains and at stations, making the railways even less accessible to disabled passengers, and putting passengers at greater risk of the kind of accidents seen at Potters Bar, Hatfield, Grayrigg and Stonehaven.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Too often the people who speak for the rail industry are a clique of company directors fixated with their owning group’s share price or civil servants with their eyes on a knighthood.

‘The real voices of the rail industry are in this survey and they paint a chilling picture of the future being forged by Grant Shapps, the train operating privateers and Network Rail.

‘What is being called “modernisation” is in reality a brutal drive to cut staff costs that will make Britain’s trains, stations and track less safe and less accessible to travel on and it’s being driven by a government that’s only thinking about the interests of the super-rich profiteers.’

SURVEY

RMT surveyed rail workers in six categories: fleet maintenance; track and infrastructure maintenance; on-board staff; station staff; and other staff.

‘We asked them questions based on the rail industry’s proposed cuts to track maintenance, ticket offices and jobs and its attempts to bring in new multi-functional roles and revive Driver Only Operation (DOO).’

Workers were asked about their view of the impact of the proposed cuts on passengers.

In addition to quantitative evidence, RMT sought to collect testimony and examples from the frontline keyworkers who deliver rail services.

The union opened the survey of its members on 18 July. Within five days it had received more than 10,000 responses.

Key results:

Almost 70% of Network Rail track and infrastructure maintenance workers reported that they had seen cuts to their operations in the last year.

Many workers are worried that maintenance has already been cut too much and that Network Rail is risking passenger safety.

Almost 80% of Network Rail track and infrastructure maintenance workers reported that they were aware of NR’s plans to cut maintenance jobs and schedules in the future.

92% of track and infrastructure maintenance workers agreed that Network Rail’s cuts will put passengers at greater risk with 75% strongly agreeing.

88% of station staff responding said that the government and industry’s plans would worsen the passenger experience.

89% of station staff said that the plans would worsen the experience for disabled passengers and those who need more support.

More than 85% of on-Board staff surveyed said they believed that the government’s plans for introducing more Driver Only Operated trains, which can run without a second member of staff on board, and new multi-functional on-board staff roles, would worsen the passenger experience.

A massive 93% of on-board staff said they believed that it would worsen the experience of travelling by train for disabled passengers and those needing more support.

Around 30% of fleet maintenance workers are aware of plans to cut maintenance schedules in the future.

70% of fleet maintenance workers said they believed that cutting fleet maintenance regimes would put passengers at greater risk.

Lessening the number of inspections on fleet will increase the risk of trains entering service with faults, increasing the risk of service disruption or accidents.

Signalling operations workers are not hostile to the use of new technology but have reservations that the need to cut costs is being prioritised over safety.

They warn that the drive to push signalling into a few Rail Operating Centres risks losing local knowledge and means that risks of failure are spread over a wider area.

Many are also worried about the growing workloads on signallers.

Some of the quotes received from members who participated in the survey include:

‘I worked for BR in a maintenance length gang from 1976 till 1978 and then track welding to the present day, I have never seen it looking so poor.’

‘Inspections and Maintenance are already at an all-time low. The amount of jobs in back log is ridiculous and the amount of staff we already don’t have is ridiculous also. To now cut back even further would be nothing short of unsafe.’

‘General maintenance prevents failures – if we reduce maintenance, more failures will occur that we previously could have caught. We’re supposed to prevent failures, not simply react. Failures can cause dangerous situations and we should be doing everything we can to prevent them.’

‘Risk-based maintenance is playing with lives! Already with hot weather we are seeing an increase in broken Fishplates etc. Under RBM they might not necessarily be seen.’

‘My concern is if a team member is expected to have multi-discipline competencies they will be competent on paper but will not have the hands-on practice required to maintain that skill/competence due to having too many competencies. Therefore, mistakes will happen which could make things unsafe.’

‘Less experienced employees and more contractors will result in less quality and more chance of a major incident like the days of Railtrack. We are already massively understaffed in my department and are using six contractors regularly who are very inexperienced and need babysitting.’

‘Hatfield and Potters Bar crashes were caused by maintenance cut-backs, it’s an accident waiting to happen.’

‘Making staff multi-functional means less people for lots of different jobs. Stretching resources so thinly is bound to impact customers in a negative way especially the elderly and vulnerable who often need extra help with mobility and guidance through the new processes.’

‘The Ticket Office is the first point of contact for most people requiring assistance and/or reassurance about their journey.’

‘Passengers still prefer people to give them the right information about ticket prices and help with journey enquiries.’

‘Often those living with learning difficulties, mobility impairments and disabilities want to talk to a person rather than a confusing machine. People don’t understand the complex intricacies of the ticketing system and will likely pay more than if they were able to speak to a person in a ticket office.’

‘We are already overstretched due to staff shortages and this would worsen the safety aspect of the job. We are also already struggling to do the day-to-day station duties.’

‘Closing Ticket Offices and replacing them with retail units increases the risk of staff being physically assaulted and having no place of safety to escape from such attacks.’

‘DOO is a bad idea and an unsafe way to operate a train service. Passengers feel safe when they see members of staff onboard carrying out their duties and helping with their needs during their journey.’

‘With DOO there will be no guarantee that there will be a member of staff on board to help passengers. Most stations that we stop at don’t have any staff. Therefore, the Guard is imperative in helping passengers with disabilities.’

‘We regularly struggle now with supporting vulnerable passengers and passengers who need assistance, cutting staff will worsen the experience for them.’