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MERSEYRAIL must come clean on how much public money it has purloined to compensate its losses for industrial action, rail union RMT demanded today.
Taxpayers in Merseyside are funding profits lost by the private train operator in its campaign to remove safety-critical guards from trains.
Under the Merseyrail services franchise contract, which is run by private operator Serco-Abellio, the public must compensate the company for any losses and costs it suffers due to industrial action.
The RMT is demanding to know how much public cash has been handed over to the company following 16 days of strike action last year by its members defending the role of safety-critical guards.
Today was the first anniversary of the launch of the action, and more action is planned.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This dispute has needlessly dragged on for a year now due to the fact that it hasn’t cost the employer, Merseyrail, a single penny piece.
“Local people are paying to finance a potentially lethal policy that they have made it clear they don’t support.”
He said it was “an absolute scandal” that Merseyside councillors were “agonising over budget cuts” while handing over undisclosed sums of cash to the rail privateer to underwrite its costs and lost profits.
Mr Cash called on councillors to “call a halt to this madness,” and to instruct Merseyrail to keep the guards on trains.
Serco-Abellio is co-owned by Dutch state-owned rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen and UK public service profiteer Serco, and operates on behalf of six Merseyside local councils.
The firm wants to operate a new fleet of trains without guards, despite a series of incidents in which guards have played a key role in helping passengers.
In the latest incident, passengers were stranded on a train in the early hours last week due to a power failure caused by snow.
The guard took charge and reassured and helped passengers until power was restored.
Other incidents have included a derailment and a landslip, where guards led passengers to safety.
A spokeswoman for transport authority Merseytravel said that the amount of cash handed to the company by taxpayers was probably subject to “commercial confidentiality.”
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