No wonder the public is supporting the RMT strike to keep Guards on trains. Across the country let’s continue to show the bosses, media and government the population supports the strikes of Southern, Merseyrail and Arriva Trains North.

The rail companies by removing guards on trains will make traveling more dangerous, while fares are rising twice as fast as wages.

 

When a train breaks down, when material falls on the railway line (such as near Liverpool Lime Street), when traveling late at night guards are essential, especially for the safety of young people, women and people with disabilities.

Everyone who travels by train values safety, but that means more staff are needed not less, trains are often delayed, cancelled, and overcrowded. We need more staffing – not ticket office closures or slashing of staffing levels, as the rail unions say.

The employers aim of course is to reduce costs by cutting and downgrading staff, which means that primarily the safety of workers and passengers is not the priority, but profit is.

The bosses want to keep huge subsidies rolling in. There has been a 300 per cent increase in government subsidy since privatisation, The Four Big Myths of UK Rail Privatisation, Action For Rail.

Over 90 per cent of new investment in the railways in recent years was financed by public sector body Network Rail. Between 1995 to 2015, all tickets (regulated and unregulated) have increased by an average of 117 per cent, or by 24 per cent in real terms. But at the same time UK railways are slower and more overcrowded than predominantly publicly owned rail services in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

What does Labour say? Jeremy Corbyn’s plan is to wait for the present franchises to expire, and then award them one-by-one to a new state-owned operator. Some five out of 16 franchises are due to expire between 2020 and 2025. Such timid attempts at curbing the profits of shareholders will not work. Only full nationalisation linked to mobilisations of the railway workers and the public can succeed.

Build joint action now

The fight to keep Guards on trains is an essential part of the struggle for safe and publicly owned transport.

The government, media, and the TUC want to keep everyone separated, and from taking joint action. We include the TUC because when negotiations were arranged with the employers ASLEF’s leadership was invited but not the RMT’s. The deal reached through Francis O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, that opened the door to remove guards from trains was called a “historic betrayal” by the RMT. We agree.

Any deal with the employer to remove Guards is opposed by Guards and other railway workers and that opposition must be organised through union members in all unions.

We applaud the ASLEF membership repudiating the historic betrayal of their leadership. Now all rail unions should take joint action including ASLEF and TSSA.

We call on all those fighting cuts and austerity to mobilise with the RMT to support the strikes and picket lines.

Safety is an issue for all trade unionists, there is not a single union whose members do not use the trains. So, every branch in every union should be held to discuss how to support the railway workers. Each union should mobilise to support the RMT pickets and to discuss with the RMT calling a national day of struggle to defend the public and jobs.

Nationalisation under rail workers and users control

For your safety do you trust a shareholder or Guards? The railways must not be left in the hands of profiteers and private companies. They were broken into a hundred pieces by the Tories: Railtrack, a private company, runs the infrastructure, 25 train operators, various freight companies, and all sorts of ancillary companies are also involved. This why there are rail price hikes.

To improve services and safety and stop fares escalating and outpacing inflation the railway must be nationalised.

But this time under the control of railway workers and the travelling public. It will have to be that way because all nationalised industry, including the NHS, is surrounded by a sea of transnational companies and banks seeking to maximise profits out of them. They were fitted into the needs of British capital, that is big business, the City of London and international investors.

The whole structure has been based on the devolution of authority to private businesses and market mechanisms.

Regulation on the running of the railways and safety cannot be left in private hands.

For national and European action

Railway workers across Europe are supporting the actions of the RMT. Guards on trains is a big issue in Belgium and railway workers (we met some recently) want to know what is happening here and to make joint campaigns against the rail operators.

Some of the rail companies in Britain are run by French or German firms, as the EU tries to privatise European rail and introduce driver only trains. Joint European actions with railway workers have happened in the recent past and need to happen again

***

International Socialist League (Socialist Voice)