Financial News

  • 8 April 2014, 6:08

Unions Bid To Halt Rail Franchise Awards

Rail unions have launched legal action against the Government over the way it is going ahead with the awarding of three rail franchises.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, Aslef and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) want a judicial review into the reprivatisation of the East Coast line and the extensions to the Thameslink and Great Northern franchises.

They accuse the Government of rushing the processes - a claim the Department for Transport (DfT) says it will vigorously defend.

The unions, who are seeking a judicial review, argue their members' jobs and conditions are threatened by a lack of consultation and suggest passengers will also be worse off.

The legal bid is a response to the expectation of an East Coast franchise sale being completed ahead of the next election in May 2015.

The London to Scotland line has been in public hands since 2009 when National Express gave up the franchise with five years left to run on it.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said of the expected reprivatisation: "It is imperative that we raise the genuine concerns of all stakeholders but, especially, the employees before this is rushed through.

"We cannot, in good conscience, allow the mistakes of the past to happen again."

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: "After the scandal of this Government robbing the British taxpayer of a billion pounds in the scramble to privatise the Royal Mail it is shocking that they are engaging in the same tactics to try and hand the East Coast Mainline back to their friends in big business.

"The British public have a right to openness and transparency when it comes to the ideologically-driven attempt to sell off Britain's most successful rail route to the speculators and chancers after two previous private sector failures on the same line."

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: "The coalition knows only too well that rail franchising is not fit for purpose. Rail workers are at a loss to understand why the government insists on going forward with a broken system which threatens the interests of passengers and taxpayers.

"We can only conclude that the ideology which saw Royal Mail flogged off on the cheap continues to thrive."

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "We will vigorously defend this claim and remain committed to the franchising programme.

"As these legal proceedings are ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."