“I’m embarrassed to say I work on the East Coast mainline”

RMT members have revealed in their own words the failings of privatisation as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling looks set to announce a new operator for the East Coast mainline.

The union has re-issued a report highlighting the failings of the privatised East Coast mainline in the words of the staff who work for the service as rumours abound that Chris Grayling is about to announce the name of the next operator of the routes.

The publication has been brought back into the spotlight as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling  is thought to be preparing to either reward private outfits Stagecoach or Virgin with a new contract to run services on the East Coast Mainline in a massive reward for corporate incompetence, or go for the popular public sector option, albeit once again on a temporary basis.

East Coast Mainline: what our members say, takes the form of quotes from RMT members working on East Coast. Members were surveyed by the union, which received an unprecedented response with some 600 submissions.

The union asked how members felt about what has happened to their work and to the franchise. Many members have been working the East Coast mainline for British Rail, Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), National Express East Coast (NXEC), Directly Operated Railways Ltd (DOR) and Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC).

The RMT report is a damning indictment of the failures of privatisation in the words of those who know the railway best, the staff:

“Due to greed and managerial incompetence, I am ashamed to say I work on the ECML. Up until the start of this franchise, I was proud to say I worked on the premier line in Britain, now I am embarrassed.”

“We were understaffed and made to do the job of two, sometimes three, people. Working with different people every day instead of having crew like with East Coast.”

“Slashed up crew rosters to save money, giving unrealistic diagrams and turnaround times for already stressed out crews.”

“Under public ownership we were fully crewed. We stayed with our crew each day for work and had a bonded team. We all looked after each other and our passengers, especially our regular passengers. The repairs were done straight away.”

In addition:

·         Over 90% said they wanted East Coast taken back into public ownership.

·         Over 86% believed VTEC had submitted a bid that was impossible for the company to deliver.

·         2% though the Government had handled the current East Coast crisis well.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This report throws the spotlight on the catastrophic and costly failure of privatisation on the East Coast Mainline in the words of those who know the railway best, the frontline staff.

“The scandal on the East Coast continues to rumble on with rumours circulating that Chris Grayling is about to announce the next operator  after the latest Stagecoach/Virgin fiasco.

“Three private operators (GNER, NXEC, VTEC) have failed on East Coast with bids promising £1.3 billion, £1.4 billion and £3.3 billion respectively. Privatisation has been a total failure, as our members show in this pamphlet.

“RMT members, whether working this route for 6 months, or more than 40 years, care passionately about the service and what they can achieve. Their voice should be heard. The union will continue to fight to protect jobs, services and safety and for the long term solution of public ownership.”

The other rail unions attacked Grayling over his management of the East Coast mainline, with TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes saying: “We have been contacted by our members in Virgin Trains East Coast telling us that the huge uncertainty about its future is creating huge anxieties among its staff. Rumours are awash including ones saying that wages will not be paid as Stagecoach is simply pulling out of the lost making venture.

“Our members need to be treated with greater respect. The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling must come clean and update this dedicated group of staff with the truth. Nothing else will do.”

And ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan saying:  “This is the third time in ten years that a private company has mucked up the east coast main line. In contrast, when it was run in the public sector, it returned £1 billion to the Treasury.

“That shows what we have been saying all along – that Britain’s railways should be run, successfully, as a public service, not for private profit. Because they can’t do it. Virgin and Stagecoach have managed reverse alchemy – by turning gold into base metal, and profits into losses on the east coast.

“And this is just the latest of a long line of failures by the Transport Secretary, Failing Grayling, as he is known throughout the rail industry. He has to resign after yet another disaster in his watch.”

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