The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 25th May 2018


by Daphne Liddle

THE DEMAND for Britain’s railways to be taken back into public ownership reached a crescendo on Monday as commuters faced chaos with completely new schedules being introduced by Britain’s busiest franchise, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) — which operates Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express, and Great Northern.

The change was badly planned and with not enough trained drivers to implement the new schedules. Passengers were calling it Meltdown Monday. Dozens of trains were cancelled after the shake-up began on Sunday, and the disruption continued as commuters headed out to work for days. This came just after the failure of Virgin/Stagecoach to run the East Coast rail line franchise, which again has had to be bailed out by the Government and taken back into public ownership for the third time in 10 years.

Public ownership worked well the last time it was nationalised. It was only Government dogma that saw it re-privatised. But the Tory Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is looking for yet another commercial enterprise to take it over.

And throughout the country the RMT is still waging its titanic battle to keep a qualified guard on every train — as a basic safety measure for passengers and to allow people with disabilities to be able to travel by train — with further industrial action planned. RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented on Meltdown Monday: “The union is picking up reports from both Northern and GTR of a hopeless lack of planning, combined with a shortage of crew and fleet, which has reduced the Monday morning journey to a nightmare for many passengers. “It is our members dealing with the anger at the sharp end not the well-paid top brass from Arriva and Govia who are responsible for this Meltdown Monday on our railways.

“Both of these companies have sought to compromise safety and access by hacking back on critical staff and it is no surprise to RMT that they can’t be trusted with the massive logistical challenges of bringing in new timetables.

“Frankly I wouldn’t trust the private train operators to run a bath let alone our vital rail routes. After Virgin/Stagecoach were kicked off the East Coast last week it’s time for the rest of these racketeers to be sent packing as well and for our railways to be run by the public sector as a public service.”

As several commuters aired their frustration on social media, the train operators said the disruption was due to a “short-term planning amendment”.

When one Twitter user asked what this meant, the Thameslink account replied: “With the new timetable being introduced we have a lot of staff and stock in the wrong places. Some services have been altered/cancelled as a result whilst Control work to get everything in the right place.”

Great Northern told one customer trains could be altered “for the next few weeks whilst getting everything into place”. On Tuesday Grayling told MPs the failing rail East Coast line franchise will be brought back under state control within weeks and given a new name after it had to be scrapped three times in a decade.

Grayling had chosen to make the statement on an Opposition Day, which cut into the time MPs had to debate an important motion on the Grenfell Tower fire.

He was also slammed for only giving the Opposition half an hour to see his statement before he made it, in a breach of protocol. On Wednesday Labour called for the renationalisation of the railways and tabled a censure motion against Transport Secretary Chris Grayling for his mishandling of the East Coast Mainline.

Historically the House of Commons has called for a Government Minister’s salary to be reduced by a nominal sum as an expression of its dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Minister or their handling of a particular policy.

The censure motion, signed by Jeremy Corbyn, Andy McDonald, Peter Dowd, Rachael Maskell, Valerie Vaz and Nicholas Brown, said: “That this House censures the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Member for Epsom and Ewell, for his handling of the East Coast franchise and his proposal to re-privatise the route rather than operate it as a public-sector operation; and calls on the Government to reduce his ministerial salary by £2,400 per year.”

It is high time the whole country was allowed its own censure motion on the Tory government with a new general election for all its failed and damaging policies