MP to attend rail ‘sell-off’ protest

MP Lisa Nandy

MP Lisa Nandy

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Wigan MP Lisa Nandy is to take part in a rally to “defend rail services, safety and jobs” amid anger over a sell-off to the Germans.

It will be held by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester on March 31 - the eve of the Northern franchise handover to German-state operator Deutsche Bahn.

Ms Nandy will be joined by fellow MPs Andy McDonald and Mick Whelan as well as general secretary of Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) Mick Cash, RMT general secretary Steve Coe and Lynn Collins from the union for people in transport and travel.

The rally will be followed up on Friday April 1 - the first day of the Arriva (DB) Franchise – with the widespread distribution of special leaflets highlighting the rail privatisation franchise “fiasco” and the opposition to German state operator DB taking over Northern Rail services with the threat of Driver-Only Operation, and the sacking of the guards, to rail safety, jobs and front line passenger services.

A ceremonial German state flag will be raised outside the stations during the protests symbolising what the protestors say is the double standards of the Government’s opposing British state ownership of our railways while “allowing the German state to bleed our franchises dry.”

Ms Nandy has previously called for the re-nationalisation of the country’s railways.

She said: “Many people in Wigan rely on the railways and because of the Tory Government’s refusal to get a grip on the train companies people are now paying over £268 more every year. They will rightly wonder why they’re being asked to pay more for what is too often an unreliable, overcrowded commute on aging trains every day.

“Labour’s policy is to bring the railways back into public ownership so they can be run for passengers not profit. That means fairer fares, investment in a 21st century railway and giving passengers a stronger voice.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “A German Transport Ministry spokesperson admitted to such a strategy in reference to its state-owned company Deutsche Bahn, which will now be running Northern Rail services saying ‘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.’

“That is nothing short of a national scandal and according to Rail North’s own estimates passenger demand for the North’s railway will soar by 50 per cent over the next fifteen years opening the door to even greater profiteering while at the same time threatening to axe safety-critical guards from 50 per cent of the Northern routes.”

But last year Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “We promised passengers a world-class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality – and I’m delighted that we have found an operator that will deliver exactly that.”