Rail unions seek Judicial Review over InterCity East Coast

Issued by the RMT on March 7 2014:

The Rail Unions ASLEF, RMT and TSSA have launched an application for Judicial Review to challenge the government over InterCity East Coast and the direct award of rail franchises.

The unions have agreed a united approach because they believe that their members’ jobs and conditions, as well as the interests of passengers and taxpayers, are threatened by the Government’s failure to adequately consult over the future of East Coast.

The unions have significant concerns that despite the Brown review of rail franchising recommending that the procurement for rail franchise should take place over a minimum of 24 months, the Government is rushing through the privatisation of East Coast over a 15 month period to be concluded by February 2015.  In its haste to push services back into the private sector the Government has cut corners, including breaching its own commitment to proper consultation of stakeholders, including passenger groups and the rail unions.

ASLEF, RMT and TSSA are conscious of the disastrous end to the InterCity East Coast franchises run by GNER and National Express as well as the Department for Transport mistakes in the InterCity West Coast franchising competition. The Unions are concerned that there is again the risk that overbidding by private operators and inadequate and rushed evaluation of the bids will, as on previous occasions, lead to cuts to staff and services and even the franchise collapsing again.

The Unions are also challenging the decision of the Government to make a direct award to First Capital Connect of an extended franchise agreement for the Thameslink and Great Northern franchise without any tendering process or consideration by the government of whether the interests of their members and passengers would be better served by the service being taken over by Directly Operated Railways.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said, “It is imperative that we raise the genuine concerns of all stakeholders but, especially, the employees before this is rushed through. We cannot, in good conscience, allow the mistakes of the past to happen again.”

RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said, “After the scandal of this Government robbing the British taxpayer of a billion pounds in the scramble to privatise the Post Office it is shocking that they are engaging in the same tactics to try and hand the East Coast Mainline back to their friends in big business.

“The British public have a right to openness and transparency when it comes to the ideologically-driven attempt to sell off Britain’s most successful rail-route to the speculators and chancers after two previous private sector failures on the same line.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said, “The Tory led coalition knows only too well that rail franchising is not fit for purpose. They continue to ignore the recommendations of the Brown review which they commissioned following the West Coast debacle. Rail workers are at a loss to understand why the government insists on going forward with a broken system which threatens the interests of passengers and taxpayers. We can only conclude that the ideology which saw Royal Mail flogged off on the cheap continues to thrive.”