Rail campaigners rally against major job cuts

ACTION Kelly Tomlinson, South East Unite Community co-ordinator, and Lisa Fletcher, chairman of Portsmouth Unite Community, at the demonstration last night
ACTION Kelly Tomlinson, South East Unite Community co-ordinator, and Lisa Fletcher, chairman of Portsmouth Unite Community, at the demonstration last night

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ANGRY campaigners have made a stand against huge cuts being imposed to the rail network.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers waved banners and handed out leaflets outside Portsmouth and Southsea station last night about the damaging effect The McNulty Rail Review will have.

Sir Roy McNulty’s independent report, jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation, recommends ways in which the whole industry can work towards delivering more effective railway which represents value for money.

But unions fear some of his recommendations, which include the closure of ticket sale offices and cutting down on the amount of train guards, will lead to 20,000 jobs being lost in the rail sector.

There are also plans to cut down on the amount of engineering staff by 20 per cent.

Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary for The RMT Union, said the whole move is going to put the public ‘in danger’.

‘What the public are going to end up having are understaffed stations, trains being driven on dangerous infrastructure and when there is a problem, there won’t be a guard on board the train to sort it out,’ he said.

‘The public are going to be put in danger.’

On average, rail fares could go up by eight per cent and in some places by 11 per cent.

While the review says the whole package would be improved if it went into public ownership, it also suggests ways of it being privatised further.

Keith Morrell, a councillor for Southampton City Council, went along to show his support. He believes there needs to be investment and more carriages put on the line between Portsmouth and Southampton in order to cope with demand.

Rail user Phil Garner said he already has to fork out £250 a month travelling between both cities for his job.

‘My general view is, it amounts to greed,’ he said.

‘Privatisation of the rail service was brought in on the ground it would bring investment, which there has been, especially when you look at the improvements made to running times.

‘But the prices are high. I earn £1,800 a month and pay £250 in travel.’

After the protest, a public meeting was held in Portsmouth Central Library which emphasised the need for the rail network to come under public ownership.