Rail union warns of cuts to jobs and services

A leading rail union is urging the Government to halt plans by a train operator to make “swingeing” cuts to services and jobs.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) claimed South Western Railway’s plans could lead to “wholesale” station closures and job cuts.

The union has written to rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris asking him to intervene.

SWR said it is “appropriate” to match services to demand following the pandemic.

The union warned cuts at SWR could be a foretaste of jobs and services “carnage” across the rail industry in the coming months.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The messaging from the Government and the rail industry is a total shambles. On the one hand we have the rail minister himself saying that rail passenger demand will fully recover post-Covid and on the other hand we have private train operators like South Western Railway claiming otherwise in order to make swingeing cuts to services and ultimately jobs.

“It is an absolute scandal that in the year we host vital climate talks at Cop26, the Government and rail industry is pursuing a policy of rail austerity as short-sighted as the Beeching cuts of the 1960s which will just force more cars on to the roads.

“I have written to the rail minister calling on him to intervene, do his job and act as a champion and guardian of our railways and not the axeman for the Treasury. These cuts must be stopped.”

An SWR spokesman said: “The timetable we are proposing from December 2022 will represent a significant increase on our current service levels and provide 93% of our pre-Covid capacity.

“With customer journeys forecast to return to 76% of pre-pandemic levels, it is appropriate that we right-size our services to match demand, improve reliability for our customers and reduce costs for the taxpayer.”