Challenging Transport Secretary on the future of rail jobs in York
Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening MP, introduced the new railway Command Paper “Reforming the Railways: Putting the Customer First” today and announced in the House of Commons the biggest reorganisation of the railways since privatisation under the last Conservative government in the 1990s.
I asked the Secretary of State asked what impact the government’s shake up of the industry would have on railway jobs in York. My question and the Secretary of State’s answer can be read here.
When the railways were privatised, thousands of jobs were lost in the rail industry. At the time we had 2,000 skilled railway engineers at York carriageworks – but privatisation put a blight on orders and the works closed.
Hundreds of British Rail employees lost their jobs while others were transferred to private rail companies. I am concerned that further reform of the industry could put more jobs at risk and I am very worried that the Secretary of State does not seem to have thought through the implications of her plans.
When they privatised the railways the Conservatives said it would make them more efficient and cut the public subsidy and fares but the fragmentation drove up costs. We now have one of the most expensive railways in Europe.
Labour commissioned the McNulty report to look for ways to reduce costs. Some changes are necessary. The government needs to cut the pay and perks of top managers of publicly subsidised rail companies and to limit their profits, and it needs to reduce the fragmentation of the system, but this needs to be done slowly and carefully. It could compromise safety if it cuts front line jobs.