Unions urge Grand Central to redeploy workers

Union leaders are calling on a rail operator to ensure that workers affected by the abandonment of a planned service between Blackpool and London are redeployed.

Consultations between unions and Grand Central started on Thursday following the company’s decision not to go ahead with the new service because of the virus crisis.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) also called on ministers to absorb services provided by open access operators into the government-protected rail services.

TSSA official Steve Coe said: “Dedicated railway staff are facing redundancy, but they could be redeployed in other parts of the railway and that is what we’re asking Grand Central to facilitate.

“We’ve asked the company to find other train operators to take on skilled workers and safeguard these jobs.

“We’re also calling on the Government to consider taking Grand Central into LNER (London North Eastern Railway) as part of its current moves to reunifying our fragmented railway.

A Grand Central train (Martin Keene/PA)
A Grand Central train (Martin Keene/PA)

“Having accepted that franchising has failed, the Government now needs to recognise that there is no space in our railway network for open access operators such as Grand Central.”

A Grand Central spokesperson said: “Grand Central is now in a period of consultation involving trade unions and staff members to explore every potential outcome.

“The Covid-19 pandemic sadly rendered our planned North West route unfeasible and continues to have an impact on patterns of travel on our two existing routes.

“While Grand Central receives no Government funding we continue to enjoy the support of our parent company Arriva and the dedication of our team.

“From Monday we have been able to return to our pre-Covid timetable levels and we continue to work hard to serve the communities along our two routes.”

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: “We will do everything possible to ensure that our members’ livelihoods are protected and that they will still have employment on the railway in the future.

“Open access operators are at huge risk in this pandemic and the Government must intervene to protect both jobs and these much needed services.”