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Rail unions warn operators not to use Covid timetables as cover for cuts

RAIL workers have warned that any attempt by profiteering operators and the government to keep in place service cuts caused by Covid will be met with resistance.

Sweeping cuts to services are being introduced by operators “temporarily” because of staff shortages caused by absences due to the highly infectious omicron variant of the virus.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators, said the introduction of emergency timetables with reduced frequencies would create a more reliable service and fewer short-notice cancellations.

But rail union RMT said that while reductions in services are “logical” for the time being, they must be temporary.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “No-one should underestimate the impact that Covid is having on transport staff and there is a logic to adjusting services accordingly.

“However, any attempt to use this crisis to cynically bulldoze through permanent cuts to services and staffing levels would meet the stiffest resistance from this trade union.”

He also accused operators of operating with too few staff “for years.”

“The current situation exposes existing shortages of staff and shows just how the transport companies have been winging it ‎on the cheap for years,” he said.

“That has to stop.”

Mr Lynch said key workers should be given priority for Covid testing as shortages of testing kits continue.

“With the ongoing supply side fiasco fo‎r testing kits it makes sense for key workers to be prioritised but it’s no excuse for poor planning and central government incompetence,” he said.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of rail clerical and professional union TSSA, called for “copper-bottomed guarantees” that service cuts will be temporary, and warned ministers against “using temporary timetables as cover to reduce services.

“We really fear that the Tory government is using temporary timetables as cover to reduce services so it can then implement cuts of £2 billion on our railways,” he said

“Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) should give passengers copper-bottomed guarantees that rail services will return back to their pre-pandemic level as soon as we have any kind of return to normality.

“Failure to do so would be a clear signal of what many fear are this government’s real intentions — cutting train services.”

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