Jul 162013

By William Walker

 Members of the RMT Union converged on the East Staffordshire Town of Burton-Upon-Trent to protest against the government’s rail policy which will take away jobs and significantly increase the barriers disabled people face to accessing the rail network.

Back in 2011 the government asked Sir Roy McNulty to commission a report into how the rail network could make savings. The McNulty report suggeststhat up to 20 000 jobs could be cut across the rail network including the closure of up to 675 ticket offices.

In Burton the local Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths has previously dismissed claims made by the RMT and the TUC backed campaign group Action For Rail as ‘whipping up concern over nothing.’

Previously the RMT and Action For Rail have held two previous protests in the town which encountered strong opposition from both the town’s MP and the train operating company East Midlands Trains who run the station.  

So on July 3rd the RMT hit back bigger and better than before.

Joined by the disabled people’s rights group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), members of Derby Trades Council and the local Labour party to leaflet the passengers about the dangers of the McNulty report.

Paul Walker a member of the RMT’s executive council told the assembled local media We do expect a reduction in hours. Let’s look at what East Midlands Trains has said – ‘not at this moment in time’.

“It means when the franchise is up for renewal in another couple of years it will be expected to take on the McNulty Report.

“It talks about 20,000 jobs and driver-only trains. If you take the train manager and the guard off a train – their primary function is the safety of passengers.

“All the major transport unions in the country are backing the campaign. It is not just something that is being made up or pie in the sky as Andrew Griffiths seems to think.’ Andrew Griffiths had previously suggested that the RMT were only carrying out these protests in a bid to ‘make themselves look good’ but Paul Walker countered those arguments by saying ‘If making ourselves look good means that we highlight real issues and concerns to the travelling public and as a result we end up saving lives, then we are happy to look good as a movement because we have achieved our goal.’

The RMT’s Regional officer Ken Usher said ‘these are real concerns as you can see the McNulty report is real and if Andrew Griffiths wants to dispute these claims we are happy to do so any time, anywhere and any place.’ He added ‘The Union is not going to shy away from reality unlike the Tories.’

Protests against the government’s rail policy take place at railway stations across the country and Action For Rail is backed by all four of the major transport unions with the custodians being the TUC. The RMT branch in Burton sends its special thanks to Disabled People Against Cuts who have supported the campaign nationally and offered their support to the Burton action after hearing of the political situation in the town.

The next national day of Action for Action for Rail will take place in September however there are plans for further action in Burton before then depending on the responses of East Midlands Trains and the Tory MP.

Read the report in the Burton Mail: http://www.burtonmail.co.uk/News/Protesters-air-concerns-on-rail-industrys-future-20130703164334.htm

For more information on what the future of railway staffing means for disabled and older passengers go to: http://actionforrail.org/what-does-the-future-of-railway-staffing-mean-for-disabled-and-older-passengers/