Posted 14th September 2012 | 12 Comments

Strike ballot announced over West Coast crisis

Picture of Bob Crow

RMT general secretary Bob Crow: "The fiasco over West Coast has left staff and the travelling public without a clue as to who will be running this key transport artery"

THE RMT says it is preparing to hold a strike ballot in protest at the continuing uncertainty over the award of the next Intercity West Coast franchise.

The DfT is making contingency plans in case Virgin's legal challenge prevents completion of the contract with FirstGroup in time for a transfer on 9 December, and the union said thousands of staff have been left in doubt about whether they will still have a job.

ASLEF, meanwhile, has released the results of a survey which claims that 70 per cent of those asked supported a return of the railways to public ownership.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said; "The fiasco over West Coast has left staff and the travelling public without a clue as to who will be running this key transport artery in little more than ten weeks time. It is still not out of the question that there will be no one to run it if the Government don’t stop messing about and accept that, with the clock ticking down, they need to get on with the public sector option as a matter of urgency or risk a total meltdown.

“Transfer of staff and operations cannot be done overnight and with DOR on the East Coast tried and tested it is simply the Government’s entrenched opposition to public control, even though it is now supported by 70 per cent of the British people, that is stopping them getting on with this logical and urgent option for the West Coast route.

“The case for renationalisation is now overwhelming as a key route in the nation that gave the railways to the world is dragged down to a laughing stock by the insane privatisation process. The public sector stepped in and rescued the East Coast and rather than waiting for history to repeat itself we are calling for the safe and logical publicly-owned option to now be given an opportunity to sort the West Coast debacle.”

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan added: 'It would be a democratic and practical step in the right direction to declare now that no franchise will be renewed when it ends. This would cost the public nothing, and would ensure that rail fares and profits benefit the travelling public, rather than shareholders and speculators."

The growing calls for renationalisation have also been supported by delegates at the TUC conference at Brighton this week, who voted unanimously for an end to the present system after hearing that the railway had become a 'gigantic scam' which was a 'cash cow for government and private operators'.

The new transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has not indicated that a change of railway policy is being considered, and has said several times this week that he intends to sign off the FirstGroup West Coast contract as soon as possible.

FirstGroup told Railnews that it has already signed, but the contract will not be complete until the Government signs as well. The company has also said that it is continuing to mobilise in preparation for a takeover on 9 December as planned.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Richard Mills, Milton Keynes

    Is Bob Crow for real? How the hell can this be the best action for anybody. What a dinosaur he is.

  • Dick fisher, London

    Good old bob.......strike strike strike! He can sit easy on his 110k salary whilst those on near to minimum wage lose money to satisfy his personal political agendas.

  • Jason Jones, Ashford Kent

    I think Bob Crow is a hero - someone who has the b*lls to challenge the ridiculous charlatans who purport to run this country, don't live in the 'real' world and continue to waste tax payers money on apathy, no matter what 'party' they represent!

  • Lee, Manchester

    I knew it. It was only a matter of time till Bob Crowe started anouncing the possibility of a strike. Does this man think that on top of high rail fares, overcrowding, goverment dithering and apparent incompetence, a series of strikes will gain public support. Dosen't this man realise that all commuters want is a clean, reliable and relatively cheap rail service? Strinking will not change anything at all, except annoy more people even more than they have been already by this fiasco. He would also do well to remember that he and his members previous strikes for higher wages have contributed, on top of the TRO's profit margins and share dividends, to make the UK's rail services some of the most expensive in Europe and probably the world. Then again, dosen't the government realise that privatisation seems to have achieved the complete opposite of what it was intended and made train travel more expensive?

  • Billy Bell, Beith, UK

    Usual old rubbish from Crow - we will strike! Never comes to anything and as people are fed up with his only solution to any situation, this latest threat won't materialise either.

    Does anyone take him seriously anymore or is he just a good mouth piece for lazy journalist's and scaremongering headlines?

    Headlines like the one for this article, come to think of it!

  • HH, Birmingham

    This sort of flag flying generates public opposition and does the case (a real one) no good whatsoever.
    He should enlist support of commuters/rail users

    He should take some PR training if he really wants to make case for his members.

  • Lutz, London

    Why does this political agitator get so much positive coverage?

  • Paul O'Brien, Kettering

    Why do ASLEF and RMT want nationalisation of the railway? It's nothing to do with safety or performance, they want to be able to ballot for national strikes, which they are unable to do within the franchise system. They have to realise that with franchise commitments to run trains and staff stations it ensures that there are plenty of jobs and what comes with that is union membership. With nationalisation and no franchise commitments there will be less staff, less trains and less union membership. I wish they would stop repeating the call for public ownership, it wasn't good for their members then and it wouldn't be now!

  • Philip Russell, Carlisle

    Any member of staff is perfectly free to leave any time if they dont fancy putting up with a few weeks uncertainty over who their future employer may be, in reality they know they are extremely unlikely to find anything like as well paid a job elswhere,although i do agree with the union that we would probably be better off back with British Rail ,the present system has just been a heaven for over priced consultants, agencies and militant unions etc all milking the privitisation gravy train.

  • Matt Sawyer, London

    That's not what Mick Whelan is saying. He is saying that the franchises could return to public ownership when they expire rather than be subject to a tendering process again and this would cost the public nothing.

  • Ken. Oldfield., Stone

    Think you,ve misread it James, he does not say it would cost nothing, rather he says the fact a franchise would not be renewed would cost nothing. Not saying hes right or wrong but thats what he meant I am sure.

  • James Pritchard, Southampton

    Is anyone else wondering how a railway in public ownership will, as Mick Whelan puts it, "cost the public nothing"?