On Thursday rail workers from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union staged a protest in Leeds City Centre to express concern about plans for future rail franchises in the north of England.
The protest was held in City Square just outside the Queens Hotel, where this year’s National Rail Conference is being hosted. Rail Minister Claire Perry is expected to be among the speakers.
RMT leaders say the government’s plans for rail services in the north – which include two new train franchises, Northern and TransPennine Express, managed by a partnership called Rail North – endangers jobs, safety and customer service.
Concerns are centred around the way the franchises will be awarded; RMT argue the government is looking to award the franchises to Dutch, French or German state railways, with specifications that could impact the quality of rail services.
Craig Johnson, RMT Organiser for the north of England, suggests: “The Tories are handing the north of England’s railways over to the Germans, Dutch or French state railways so that those people can make profits. They are also proposing specifications in the franchise that will bring in less safe and less customer friendly driver operated only trains and potential cuts to station staff and ticket offices.”
Mr. Johnson urged Labour councillors who are part of the Rail North partnership to oppose the government’s franchise specifications.
The Department for Transport has responded by arguing that the new franchises will modernise the train fleet and increase capacity at peak times, also claiming that staff cuts have not been specified in the proposals for the new franchises.
(Image: William Swain/Flickr)