AN URGENT call by MPs for the government to consider taking the First Great Western rail franchise back into public ownership was welcomed today by Britain’s biggest rail union.
RMT has applauded the House of Commons motion, tabled by Stroud MP David Drew and signed so far by 19 others, which expresses alarm at the downgrading of rolling stock services in and out of south Wales and the West of England, and calls for an urgent review of the franchise, with a view to taking it back into the public sector.
Delays and overcrowding have accompanied the introduction of FGW’s supposedly improved new timetable this week, as a number of 90mph 158 class trains on commuter routes were replaced with slower, smaller, older and far less comfortable 142 class trains.
“This is yet more evidence that the franchising system simply cannot deliver the railway we need,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
“Since the timetable changeover there have been more delays and serious overcrowding on commuter trains in and out of south Wales and Bristol and, as usual, it is our members who are left to pick up the pieces and face the public’s anger.
“It is only a few months since massive passenger and union pressure forced FGW and the government to bring mothballed trains back into service after the last rolling-stock cock-up.
“First may not have chosen these inferior trains, but they will be getting a big discount for leasing them, which they could even end up making bigger profits as a result.
“And there’s more bad news in the pipeline, because the franchise deal allows First to axe buffet cars from high-speed services under 200 miles.That would leave all services to Cardiff, Exeter and Bristol without proper catering facilities, so we need the biggest possible protests now.
“First are also supposed to have built a new train maintenance depot in Bristol, but a year after it was meant to open there is no sign of it being completed, and that leaves maintenance workers having to work on trains in the open without adequate facilities
“Franchising is about maximising profits and not about providing service, and the time has come to end it,” Bob Crow said.
Early Day Motion 546 – First Great Western Rail Services
Tabled by David Drew MP (Stroud) and signed by 19 others as at December 14
That this House notes with continuing concern the performance of First Great Western rail services; is alarmed that the new December 2007 timetable will see the replacement of existing rolling stock with inferior rolling stock which could result in slower, less comfortable and more crowded conditions for passengers; and calls on the Government to intervene urgently to protect the interests of passengers and to conduct an urgent and public review to determine whether the interests of passengers would be better served by bringing the franchise back into public ownership
To view latest the list of signatories, go to:
Notes to editors
The material difference in the December 2007 timetable was the introduction of 12 class 142 two-car units (of which eight are planned to be in daily service) and the loss of ten class 158/2 two-car units (of which six 6 were meant to be in daily service).
That means slower, less comfortable and more crowded conditions for passengers, for the following reasons:
Class 158s are 90mph stock, while 142s are 75mph stock;
Class 158s are ‘bogied’ vehicles, while 142s are fixed-wheelbase units, which means that they are unsuitable for certain branch lines with tight curvature of the track (such as Liskeard-Looe in Cornwall), they make an enormous amount of noise pollution screeching round bends, The absence of bogie suspension also creates serious levels of jarring and juddering, giving passengers and staff a very rough ride. They also cause damage to track and points and therefore unpopular with Network Rail
Class 158 two-car sets have a seating capacity of 132 (between 11 and 25 more than the class 142). Class 142 trains look like a bus on train wheels, and that is basically what they are. They have 2 coaches, each consisting of a bus body with a cab riveted on the end, mounted on one single axle at each end of the coach. Seating was originally bus-style seats, but many units now have high-backed train seats, and a capacity of between 106 and 121