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RMT prepares ballot for action and political fight as First Group wins West Coast franchise

RMT said today that it will mount a massive campaign to defend jobs and services on the prestige West Coast route – including a ballot for industrial action - as it was confirmed this morning that First Group have won the InterCity franchise from Virgin on the basis of 20% cuts across the board and with a bid that RMT says contains a billion pound black hole.

 RMT said that First Group have based their bid on the same kind of over-geared financial projections that lead to the collapse of the GNER and National Express contracts on the East Coast – forcing the Government to renationalise the service. It is reported that George Osborne and the Treasury stepped in and demanded that the contract go to First Group regardless of the risks of another spectacular East Coast-style collapse and regardless of the fact that only months ago First pulled the plug on the Great Western route early to avoid £800 million in payments to the British taxpayer.

 RMT negotiators have already been informed by the fleet maintenance company, Alstom, that the winning West Coast InterCity bid is likely to include a wholesale reconfiguration of the rolling stock with shops and catering removed to lever in more seating capacity, putting up to 800 train crew jobs on the block.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

 “First Group and the Government should be left in no doubt this morning that RMT will mount a massive industrial, political and public campaign to stop any attacks on our members jobs and the services that they provide to the travelling public as a result of this franchise award. We are already preparing a ballot for industrial action in light of the threatened job cuts.

 “It is clear that this franchise in being let on pure McNulty terms with a gold-plated, extended contract linked to massive cuts to jobs and passenger services and huge increases in fares as the winning First Group looks to extract every penny that they can in profit.

“RMT will work with MP’s and communities along the West Coast route to stop the savage assault on staffing levels and budgets that we expect to be at the core of this new franchise arrangement.

 “The new First West Coast deal in an exercise in casino franchising that lays bare the whole sordid enterprise which is rail privatisation. Companies promise the earth, jack up fares and slash jobs and services in a drive for profits and if the numbers don’t stack up they throw back the keys and expect the public sector to pick up the pieces.”

 “First pulled the pin on the Great Western route to dodge £800 million in payments due to the British taxpayer and here they are just months later in control of the West Coast InterCity route. The highly-political award of this contract turns the UK rail industry into a global laughing stock and the British taxpayer will be rightly outraged.

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