RMT - National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

02/05/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/05/2020 07:08

RMT demands to know what’s going on with SWR franchise

RMT demands to know what's going on with South Western Railway franchise as Government leave passengers and staff in limbo

RAIL UNION RMT has demanded to know what is going on behind the scenes over the future of the South Western Railway franchise as the Government hold secret discussions and leave both passengers and staff in limbo as speculation grows that SWR will be the next basket-case train operator to be stripped of their contract.

It is now two weeks since the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, ruled that 'the franchise is not sustainable in the long term' and confirmed that he was examining options - including making SWR the third franchise, after East Coast and Northern, to be taken into public ownership.

SWR have claimed that they are losing £137 million on the franchise, despite soaking up huge sums in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, and RMT has warned that they are playing for time in an effort to leverage additional public money as they teeter on the brink of collapse.

RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:

'It is now two weeks since the Transport Secretary put South Western Railway on notice and we believe that it is perfectly reasonable to demand to know what is going on and when he is going to make a decision. In the meantime, staff and passengers alike are left in limbo as the existing operator continues to stagger on. This is no way to run a railway.

'RMT members remain in dispute over safety and the role of the guard on SWR trains and the current uncertainty over the future of the franchise has blocked any chance of serious talks as the company await their fate. That is a ludicrous way to carry on.

'RMT is happy to sit down with Grant Shapps and discuss a way forward that brings SWR into public ownership and which guarantees safety on their trains. The current impasse is damaging and unnecessary and we need to broker a sustainable, lasting solution that involves the staff who are currently being left in the dark.'