The main three rail unions in the UK – the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers – have made it clear that they are seeking a legal battle against the UK government. The unions say that they are against the way that the government has handled rail franchises in the UK.
The unions want a judicial review into the reprivatisation of the East Coast Main Line. They say that there is a lot at risk in how the government is handling the rail industry. This includes jobs and working conditions. On top of that, it is also undermining the interest of the public. This is not something that the unions are going to sit back and watch happen without a fight.
RMT, TSSA and Aslef are seeking a judicial review because they believe that the Coalition government is trying to rush the privatisation of the East Coast Main Line. The unions think that the government is trying to get this all taken care of before the 2015 General Election starts.
According to reports, the East Coast Main Line is due to start up in early February. It is expected to run for at least 11 years. FirstGroup has already been shortlisted to run this franchise. That being said, the unions and other rail officials say that the government has found a way to cut corners in order to get their agenda done quickly. They believe that the government did not carry out proper consultation with passengers groups.
Mick Cash, the acting general secretary of the RMT union, said that the British people have a right to openness from the government. This is especially true when the government is trying to sell off the nation’s most successful rail route. This goes double since two other previous private sectors have failures on this same line.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said that her department is not happy with the allegations. The department will vigorously defend itself against these claims. That being said, since these proceedings are still ongoing, it is not wise for the department to comment on the matter any further.
The East Coast Main Line was run in 2009 by Directly Operated Railways, which is a company that is overseen by the Department for Transport. Before this, the line was run by National Express, but it was given up due to financial problems. In short, this means that two operators have failed to make this line commercially viable.
In October 2013, the government released new data that suggested that the total for passengers on this line had increased by 1 million to 19.1 million while it was under public ownership. This increased revenue by 11 percent to just over £690 million.
Stephen Hammond, the rail minister, said that giving passengers more will be the main goal of the East Coast Main Line. For the rails in the UK to continue to grow, the industry needs strong private sector investors. It needs investors who are looking to deliver first-class service to travellers.