In January this year, LEAP published research for the RMT 'Rail passenger use and the economy'. We found that there was a correlation between rail passenger use and economic growth over the last 20 years.
We stated that our research "raises serious questions about the viability of the Department for Transport's (DfT) franchise model in a period of recession. Most rail
franchises are expected to receive either lower subsidies in 2008/09 or to pay higher premiums to the DfT.
There are therefore fears that rail companies will come forward with unpalatable solutions:
1. Either attempting to renegotiate franchise agreements, which could include:
a. Reducing premium payments or requesting extra subsidies
b. Cutting services on less profitable routes
2. Cutting staff numbers to reduce overhead costs, which would increase unemployment and could lead to worse services and less passenger safety
3. Raising rail fares, which could drive passengers from the rail into private transport"
Since that report was published our unpalatable predictions have been proven correct. The RMT is in dispute with several franchises and Network Rail, as thousands of rail jobs are under threat.
Labour affiliated rail union TSSA has called for the "do-nothing minister" (Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon) to be sacked.
TSSA General Secretary Gerry Doherty said: "I can see why everyone calls him Buff Hoon. He simply refuses to do anything on behalf of our members to protect their jobs or the general public to protect them from unwarranted fare increases"
Unregulated rail fares will go up by up to 11% in the summer. Corporate profitability is protected as rail staff are sacked and passengers fleeced. The Government - subsidiser and regulator - does nothing. Even more worryingly, rail and bus operator Go-Ahead is now calling on the Government to cut free travel for pensioners.
Not content with meetings with Hoon, RMT and TSSA members are lobbying Parliament tomorrow (Tue 5 May) 'For A People's Railway'. See the RMT website for full details.