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Rail workers warn they will ‘not allow’ new job-shedding scheme to wreck railway network

RAIL workers warned today they will “not allow” a new job-shedding scheme to further wreck Britain’s railway network.

The voluntary severance scheme sees rail firms inviting staff to quit their jobs as the industry seeks to cut £2 billion in costs following a dive in passengers following the coronavirus pandemic.

It was sprung on rail unions without consultation today when it was approved by the Department for Transport (DfT), and lasts for just three weeks, pressurising workers to make quick decisions.

Rail unions warn that the scheme could cut the rail workforce by thousands, reduce services and make a mockery of government commitments to the environment by driving passengers off trains and into cars.

The scheme excludes workers from failed privateers whose services have been taken back into public ownership, such as Govia-operated London and South Eastern Railways, which will see its franchise abruptly terminated this month with tens of millions of pounds owed to taxpayers. 

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Frankly, it’s ludicrous that with Cop26 just round the corner, the Conservatives are looking to cut thousands of rail jobs which will mean that services on our railways will not be returning to their pre-pandemic levels. 

“If Boris Johnson and his cohorts were serious about decarbonisation, they would be making it easy for people to get out of their cars and onto our railways. 

“Today’s announcement is sadly the culmination of 11 years of Tory failure to seriously deal with decarbonisation by making people switch from their cars to our railways.

“The Tories are just not at all serious about saving our planet.” 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “It’s crystal clear that cutting rail jobs will adversely impact on passenger service, safety and accessibility.

“RMT’s executive will consider our response but we have said from the off that we will not allow the Covid pandemic to be used as a cloak for a jobs massacre across the rail industry.”

The Rail Delivery Group said that the move was “vital” to create a more modern, reliable and “passenger-focused” railway in response to changing travel patterns.

Train operators employ about 65,000 workers, but no figure has been put on the number expected to leave, or how much money will be spent on the scheme

Revenue and journeys are currently around 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

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