'Years of overcrowding' after meltdown in rail fleet replacement programme
- Published on Monday, 07 January 2013 11:09
- Posted by Vicki Mitchem
Rail union RMT warned today that passengers face years of a poisonous combination of fare increases and chronic overcrowding as the national rail fleet replacement programme has been thrown into a total meltdown due to the knock-on effect of the Siemens/Thameslink shambles.
While fares are increasing at rates way above inflation there is a chronic shortage of rolling-stock at a time of massive rises in passenger numbers. The result is train-operators exploiting the situation by running short formations, cancelled services and commuters paying thousands of pounds a year to stand in rammed-full corridors.
Just before Christmas, RMT revealed that there has been a three year delay in the programme of replacement for the Thameslink rail fleet after the award in principle to Siemens – dating back to June 2011 – ran into serious financial and technical problems and has still not achieved closure despite repeated broken promises. That delay is now holding up the release of fleet to other key services, including newly electrified lines.
Parliamentary answers revealed just before Christmas to MP Alex Cunningham - below - confirm the three year delay in the national fleet programme bound up with the Siemens debacle.
As a result, the cascading of rolling stock from Thameslink to other electrified lines has been held up leaving the Government facing the prospect that the prestige electrification project linking Preston, Manchester and Liverpool, known as the Lancashire Triangle, may have to run with diesel trains when it comes on stream over the next three years.
RMT is calling once again for a reversal of the 18 month Siemens/Thameslink fiasco and a guarantee that there will be no repeat on other fleet procurement projects like Crossrail which have left Britain's last train maker, Bombardier in Derby, hanging by a string with thousands of jobs under threat. RMT is also warning that hundreds of further jobs on the Thameslink fleet maintenance are also left in the balance at the Hornsey and Three Bridges depots with no assurances for the future as they are also caught in the Siemens crossfire.
RMT General secretary Bob Crow said
"We now know the real cost of the Government's Thameslink fiasco, thousands of jobs threatened in the East Midlands and massive delays and hold ups to key electrification projects and the release and cascading of desperately needed rolling stock throughout the network.
"Those delays will leave passengers paying through the nose for years to come to travel on shabby, overcrowded trains while the train operators are exploiting the crisis and are laughing all the way to the bank.
"This madness, cooked up by the same ministers and officials responsible for the West Coast shambles, has got to stop and Bombardier should be given the essential fleet replacement work rather than continuing this debacle into yet another year.
"There should also be no repeat of this shambles on Crossrail and the other rail projects looming large in this new year."