RMT takes rail franchise fight to Parliament

Rail union RMT is to lobby parliament on Tuesday on plans for the future of the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, after more than 50 MPs signed a motion criticising proposed cuts.

The current franchises are operated by First and Keolis Transpennine, trading as First TransPennine Express, and Northern Rail, a joint venture between Serco Group and Abellio. Northern operates around 2,550 trains every weekday, while TPE operates 335.

The next TPE and Northern franchises are due to commence in February 2016. The Department for Transport launched a consultation earlier this year, to seek the public's views on specification matters that will be provided to shortlisted bidders.

The proposals include increasing fares is some areas, and enabling efficiencies in working practices, such as reducing the opening hours of lightly-used ticket offices and promoting new ticketing technologies.

However, RMT accused the Government and Northern Rail of secretly colluding to axe off-peak fares, along with jobs and key services, in the name of private profit.

In August the government and Northern Rail confirmed that it was introducing changes to off-peak fares in the region, in what RMT described as "a kick in the teeth for the travelling public and a taste of what's to come under the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises which are currently out to public consultation."

On 4 November trade unionists from across Northern Rail and TPE, along with supporters from the community, will take their case to parliament.

The list of MP supporters included 11 signatures from North West constituencies. These were; Dave Watts for St Helens North, Graham Stringer for Blackley and Broughton, Michael Meacher for Oldham West and Royton, Gerald Kaufman for Manchester Gorton, Mark Hunter for Cheadle, George Howarth for Knowsley, David Heyes for Ashton-under-Lyne, Frank Field for Birkenhead, Tim Farron for Westmorland and Lonsdale, David Crausby for Bolton North East and Rosie Cooper for West Lancashire.

RMT is continuing to hold a series of events across the area served by Northern and TPE aimed at persuading more MPs to sign up to the early day motion as the campaign of opposition gathers pace.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: "We now have more than 50 MPs on board with our campaign to stop the attacks outlined in the Government and Rail North proposals for rail services that serve millions of people coast to coast, right across the North. We will be working flat out to get more signed up as we build for the major lobby of Parliament on the 4 November.

"The fight to stop the outrageous carve up of jobs and services under the Northern and TPE franchise plans is gathering pace by the day and is sending out the clearest possible message to the Government and Rail North that they need to scrap this attack on transport services. On 4 November we will be taking that message to the doorstep of the politicians who can halt this scandalous assault on the North in its tracks."

A document summarising the stakeholder views on the changes is expected to be published by the Department for Transport in December 2014.

Northern Rail and First TransPennine Express declined to comment. No comment from the Department for Transport was available at the time of going to press.

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