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TUSC banner at the protest against removal of guards on new Northern Rail franchise - photo RMT

TUSC banner at the protest against removal of guards on new Northern Rail franchise – photo RMT

“We’re skimming profit from the entire Deutsche Bahn and ensuring that it is anchored in our budget – that way we can make sure it is invested in the rail network here in Germany.” This was a quote from a German Transport ministry spokesperson featured on RMT leaflets as Deutsche Bahn subsidiary Arriva, took over the Northern Rail franchise. The new franchise includes significant cutbacks including plans to remove guards from trains by introducing Driver-Only Operation on 50% of services.

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Socialist Party & TUSC members joined members of the RMT union protesting against this at Leeds station, one of three on the day at major northern railway stations. Many there remarked on the irony that we’d been campaigning for the franchise to be re-nationalised, but the only nationalisation the Tory government seems to approve is instances like this to other state rail operators.

The Northern Rail franchise heavily relies on using out-dated and uncomfortable Pacer trains, half-bus / half-freight chassis but together as a temporary measure. Rather than democratically drawing up a plan to improve a nationalised rail service, which could use steel from a nationalised Tata to build new, fully-staffed, high quality trains – we will instead see Arriva buy trains from a Spanish provider that will be part of the process of removing guards who play a vital safety role.

Corbyn support

The RMT had invited Jeremy Corbyn to support the protests, and featured a supportive letter from him on their website which stated “We fully support your campaign to oppose driver only operation on Northern and cuts to station staff and rail ticket offices. That’s because Labour want what passengers and rail workers want.”

But whilst that may be Jeremy’s view, it’s certainly not the view of Labour councillors, who through a shadowy body they set up, Rail North, actually co-sponsored the government’s proposals. This is a clear example of how the Labour Party are two opposed parties in one, and the vital necessity of TUSC challenging councillors who threaten vital jobs and services in the forthcoming local elections.