Britain’s three rail unions have written to the Prime Minister, the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales and the Mayor of London stating this is not the time to lift the Lockdown and run more trains.
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash and TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes signed the joint letter, which states it is “completely unacceptable” to put the lives of passengers and rail staff at risk.
Timetables have been drastically altered following the outbreak of COVID-19 with fewer trains running while people remain at home.
In the letter, the union leaders say: “we are writing to express our deep concerns over apparent plans to increase the levels of service on our rail network, without due consideration to both the mixed messages this sends, and the range of measures needed to protect rail workers and the travelling public.”
They state they have: “severe concerns over attempts by operators to increase service levels.
“First, it sends out a mixed message that it is okay to travel by train – despite official advice suggesting otherwise. This mixed messaging could be dangerous and lead to the public flouting the rules on travel and work.
Second, there is no agreement on how actually services can be increased whilst protecting workers and passengers. This includes protections through social distancing, adequate and appropriate PPE, and determination of essential and non-essential tasks.”
While the unions have been in dialogue with Government regarding the railway’s continued operation during the Lockdown, the letter states: “we have a duty of care to our members, and to those who rely on our industry. We will not accept new working patterns that put the lives of railway workers and passengers at risk.
“To be clear –we are not convinced that there is any basis at this time for a safe escalation of services.”
The unions want Government and train operators to work with them to establish where there is real demand to increase and services and, where that exists, how it can be safely delivered.
The letter finishes: “Seeking a blanket increase in services as part of a symbolic and premature drive to apparent normality, at the potential risk of countless lives, is completely unacceptable to us.”
For the FULL story regarding the railway's ongoing response to the COVID-19 situation, read RAIL 904, published on May 6, and available digitally now.