AS CHINESE state-owned MTR takes over the South West Trains (SWT) contract, the RMT rail union has called on the new owner to honour previous commitments made to passengers to keep a guard on every train.
An SWT poster campaign aimed at passengers says: ‘We employ absolute legends. We call them guards and there is one on every one of our trains.’
And on the South Western Railway website the promise to passengers says: ‘From our fantastic drivers getting you to your destination on time to our experienced and knowledgeable guards who will be sure to bring a warm and friendly smile to your journey, you can rest assured you are travelling in safe hands.’
The call to keep guards came as a rail guards protest took place at Waterloo Station yesterday morning at the start of the first full day of the new SWT franchise. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘As this new franchise begins we are calling for SWT’s Chinese owners to honour the promise to passengers that they will have a guard on every one of their trains to keep passenger safe and informed. We are not asking for anything new just simply what passengers have already been promised.’
At the protest, RMT member Ivor Riddell told News Line: ‘I’m here to show solidarity on this first day of the new South West Trains franchise, now being run by a consortium of the Chinese and Dutch state railways.
‘It’s ironic that the government is not prepared to nationalise the rail network but are happy to see other countries’ state railways running them. The key issue is that the new consortium has refused to give a written guarantee to keep the safety-critical guard on the train.
‘The nationalisation of the railways would result in a ten per cent reduction in fares, and it has been shown to cost three times more to run the network since privatisation. It’s like what Stephen Hawking said about the NHS being the most efficient because it’s publicly funded and publicly run.’