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Don't cut rail staff, TUC urges Greening


Don't cut rail staff, TUC urges Greening
12 March 2012 from: http://www.publicservice.co.uk/news_story.asp?id=19123

 Cutting train staff is not the answer to improving rail services, the TUC has said.

Responding to plans announced by Transport Secretary Justine Greening to cut the budget for spending on the railways by billions of pounds, TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Closing ticket offices and cutting station staff and train crews is not what passengers want and will make conditions worse for both commuters and rail staff."

O'Grady went on: "Surveys by Passenger Focus consistently show that station and train staff are valued by passengers for their help with ticket sales, journey advice, safety and security, general assistance and reassurance.

"Private train operating companies will now have more freedom to raise fares and cut services, and passengers will be rightly concerned about the implications of this – particularly in rural areas. There are real fears about safety as jobs are cut in signalling and maintenance, and Network Rail becomes increasingly aligned with the interests of private train operators."

Greening said: "Inefficiency and waste in the railways is costing hard-pressed farepayers and taxpayers £3.5bn-a-year and I will no longer allow them to be lumbered with this unnecessary burden."

Welcoming the government's proposals, Passenger Focus pointed out that, backed by extensive passenger research, it had been arguing for years that these changes were needed.

Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus chief executive, said: "Rail passengers will welcome the government's desire to stop the seemingly endless rounds of above inflation fare rises, as well as acknowledge that radical reform of the fares and ticketing system is needed. No-one could disagree with the need for a more efficient and cost-effective railway, but what matters to passengers is how all this reform actually pans out in practice. How will it affect the way we travel?

"Changes to the way the railway is run and fares system need to pass two tests: will passengers find the changes both affordable and acceptable? How reform is implemented is crucial if confidence in the railways and the ticketing system is to be shored up and value for money ratings pushed up. How do you avoid pricing passengers off while simultaneously making it worthwhile for passengers to travel at different times? Significant peak price hikes might force many into an unpleasant choice: pay up or change job, if you can.

"Getting the answers to these questions right is crucial if the government is to reap the benefits of the substantial investment still being made in the railway."

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