COMMUTERS were up in arms yesterday as above inflation 2.7% increases in rail fares set in, while services across the country have been in total chaos for the last year. Demonstrations took place outside rail stations in both London and Norwich yesterday morning as passengers and train workers joined forces to protest at the massive hikes.
On the first working day of the New Year, a good crowd of campaigners, demonstrated at Norwich Train Station.
Dave West, convenor of NOR4NOR and secretary of the RMT retired branch for London Anglia, said: ‘We’re protesting over the 2.7% fare rise. Inflation is only 1.8%, so it’s way over inflation.
‘Secondly, NOR4NOR (Norfolk for the nationalisation of rail) is calling for an enquiry into Greater Anglia: as there are lots of cancellations and problems on the tracks. They’ve missed their disability targets. What is Greater Anglia doing? And why is the franchise not being taken away?
‘We want that to be a workers’ enquiry.
‘Third, given that this government is not going to nationalise the railways which is our main aim; we want a national commission set up.
‘If Corbyn would have won, we would have had franchises taken away and brought back into public ownership. We weren’t waiting for nationalisation to be handed to us on a plate by Labour. It would have been up to us to continue to campaign and make sure it was the kind of nationalisation which benefited the workers and passengers.
‘Greater Anglia still can’t make the trains safe for the disabled.
‘The RMT needs 100% support in fighting for guards on trains.
‘The plans in the Queen’s Speech to “keep the trains running” is a scabs’ charter to try and make strikes illegal in essential services. There is a similarity with Taff Vale.’
Outside King’s Cross station in London yesterday morning rail union RMT and supporters protested outside against the annual increase in rail fares, this year of 2.7%.
RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley said Labour’s general election betrayal over Brexit meant that unions will have to take strike action to renationalise the railways. Labour’s initial manifesto in the 2017 election called to ‘respect the result of the referendum, but in the election which they just lost they called for a second referendum’.
Hedley told News Line: ‘We had a Labour manifesto that we should leave the EU. The promised renationalisation of railways was impossible while remaining in the EU. There is no chance of a Labour government for ten years, so we have to fight back industrially.
‘We need to build up our industrial strength and be prepared to break the anti-union laws.’
Striking RMT health and safety rep at South Western Railway Richard Alcock joined the King’s Cross ‘cut fares not staff’ protest.
Richard told News Line: ‘On West Midlands and Merseyrail, we managed to get an agreement to keep the guard on the train. But the real problem at South Western Railway is not the union negotiating with the rail company, it’s the department of transport pulling the strings behind the scene. The government is dictating what the narrative is.
‘Only the campaign of renationalising the railways will guarantee a guard on every train.
‘Under the franchise system, if a franchise is taken over by a new train operating company we would not have a guard.
‘This is not just about train guards. We have problems with the closure of ticket offices. All grades on the railway need to be increased with job security. All the rail unions need to work together, put differences to one side and take on this government.’