Fears of recession rail axe

TRANSPORT Secretary Geoff Hoon is meeting rail operating companies today amid fears that massive cuts to services are being proposed in response to the recession.

Graham Dines

TRANSPORT Secretary Geoff Hoon is meeting rail operating companies today amid fears that massive cuts to services are being proposed in response to the recession.

Executives of the five largest public transport groups - National Express, Stagecoach, Go-Ahead, Arriva, and FirstGroup - will be at the meeting, and the rail unions fear more job losses are on the way.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said that train operators which had made hundreds of millions of pounds in profits must not be allowed to cut rail services.

General secretary Bob Crow said: “If ever there was a case of greedy privateers wanting to have their cake and eat it this is it.

“The big five monopoly operators have been minting it at the public's expense for more than a decade, handing over tens of millions of pounds in dividends to shareholders on the back of public subsidy, overcrowding and massive fares hikes.

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“Revenues, profits and dividends have been rising steadily, but at the first hint of a slowdown they want to slash services and sack staff when that is the reverse of what the economy and environment need.”

Gerry Doherty, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, added: “The companies are desperate to cut costs to keep their shareholders happy and never mind what happens to the hapless captive commuters.”

National Express operates the East Anglia main line franchise from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford, Colchester, Clacton, Harwich, Manningtree, Ipswich, Stowmarket and Norwich; rural routes in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire; the East Coast main line services via Peterborough to Leeds, Newcastle and Scotland; and the Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted premium airports express routes.