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RMT takes rail cuts fight to Parliament

Union and passengers unite against job losses and fare threats

Campaigners took their fight against rail cutbacks in northern England to Parliament yesterday, calling for Britain's ailing train networks to be brought back into public ownership.

At a "Hands off our railways" House of Commons rally, rail unions were joined by Labour MPs as they highlighted the danger posed to jobs and services by the new Northern and TransPennine franchises.

Hundreds of passengers have already lobbied ministers and their MPs by sending in postcards protesting against the cuts.

Rail union RMT has accused Northern Rail and TransPennine Express of secretly colluding with ministers to axe off-peak fares, forcing passengers to stump up the full whack for an expensive peak ticket.

The union's general secretary Mick Cash slammed "the sheer hypocrisy of government ministers and their Rail North allies who are talking up grand and uncosted plans for HS3.

"At the same time, in the here and now, they are driving through proposals that would decimate rail services and rail jobs across the whole of the north."

At the rally, Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris said rail franchising was a "broken" system and the "privatisation experiment" had failed, with taxpayers stumping up £1.2 billion more each year than they would have paid under public ownership.

"Directly Operated Railways - the body set up to run franchises taken back into public ownership - has delivered record levels of public satisfaction, out-performed private franchisees, delivered £235 million in profits to the Treasury and won numerous industry awards, including for safety," Mr Morris said.

"Any rational government would seek to replicate this success across the entire rail network."

Labour leader Ed Miliband came under fire earlier this year for initially indicating that he favoured taking rail franchises back into public ownership as they expired, but then announcing that he instead favoured a model where the state would bid against private companies for the networks.

Trade union and constituency reps at the forum managed to secure some concessions from the party leadership, including a commitment that a new national body would take charge of tracks, train leasing and ticketing.

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