SOUTHERN RAIL’S £22 million in “corporate welfare” payments has helped it keep the driver-only trains dispute running for two years, train guards’ union RMT said today.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle submitted a written question last month asking how much Southern Rail parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) had received from the taxpayer for “loss of farebox revenues arising from official industrial action.”
The Department for Transport replied this week, putting the figure at £22.2m.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the cash meant Southern had no reason to try to resolve the long-running safety battle about the role of the guard.
He said: “This extreme case of corporate welfare has taken place because the ludicrous and rigged GTR contract, condemned by the National Audit Office this week, means the taxpayer and not the company carry the revenue risk.
“It is no surprise that Southern Rail have made no effort to negotiate a solution to the guards’ safety dispute when [Transport Secretary] Chris Grayling is paying them out of the public purse to keep it running.
“It’s an absolute disgrace. The company get paid whether they run trains or not.
“This is a grotesque exercise that combines huge sums in corporate welfare with a government policy objective of throwing the guards off our trains.
“It stinks and shows just why Chris Grayling has no interest in meeting with the union to broker a solution.”
RMT members were said to be “solidly supporting” walkouts at South Western Railway, Arriva Rail North, Merseyrail and Greater Anglia in the dispute over guards.
The union criticised Mr Grayling for not responding to its call for a summit to try to break the deadlock after members walked out on Friday, Monday, and Wednesday.
A Department for Transport spokesman insisted earlier this week that the dispute is between “a private company and RMT” and that Mr Grayling has met union leaders on “several occasions” as recently as last month.
“Nobody is losing their job as a result of driver-controlled operation trains — employees have been guaranteed jobs and salaries for several years,” claimed the spokesman.
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