No new Metronet for Tyne and Wear, says RMT
RMT: May 6 2008
Biggest rail union pledges ‘tooth and nail’ fight to keep Metro 100% public
A TOOTH-and-nail fight against privatisation has been pledged by Britain's biggest rail union after plans emerged that could see Tyne and Wear Metro's infrastructure fragmented and handed over to privateers to milk of public money.
Warning against the creation of a Metronet Mark II, RMT says it will fight "all the way" if Nexus, Tyne and Wear's Passenger Transport Executive, tries to hand any part of Metro's maintenance to the private sector.
The government has earmarked £600 million for a welcome upgrade of the Metro network, but has stipulated that maintenance of new ticket machines, trains and infrastructure - all currently done in-house by Metro staff - is competitively tendered for.
"The corpse of Metronet is barely cold, yet the government is insisting that another highly successful Metro system is subjected to a process that could see its maintenance thrown to the privateers," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
"They say that history's tragedies repeat themselves as farce, but this time there is not even any pretence that there will be any private-sector investment.
"That means that private shareholders stand to get a fat profit for doing nothing more than overseeing what Metro's own maintenance staff already do perfectly well.
"But we would also end up with a Metro fragmented along the same disastrous lines that have caused such massive safety problems for the national rail network and London Underground
"Rail privatisation, on the national network and on London Underground, has been a colossal, wasteful and dangerous failure, and it would be an act of criminal vandalism to put the country's last wholly publicly owned railway through the same mill.
"RMT and its members have a bellyful of experience of rail privatisation, and we give fair warning now that we will fight to ensure that Tyne and Wear Metro remains an integrated, publicly owned and accountable railway serving its community," Bob Crow said.
Notes to editors: The Tyne & Wear Metro is currently a vertically integrated publicly owned railway but requires significant new levels of investment to upgrade the system. Nexus have proposed a "Metro Reinvigoration" program comprising of three phases.
Phase One, to be in place before 2010, covers primarily the installation of new ticket machines.
Phase Two, which is scheduled to begin in 2010, aims to refurbish the Metrocars, stations, track and overhead lines.
Phase Three starts in 2008, to build a new generation of Metrocars and signaling systems. Tyne and Wear Metro does not have the in-house capacity to undertake the major renewals and refurbishments described above but all maintenance work can be carried out in house.
The government has committed up to £600m funding to the Metro Reinvigoration program but have stipulated that this funding will only be forthcoming if Nexus tender for the work to be undertaken by the private sector and use a "public/private comparator" to determine whether better value would be obtained by the work being undertaken by the public or private sector.
It is proposed that the private sector will not make any investment in the Metro, but will simply be paid a fee.
Stage One is now at an advanced stage: invitations to tender for the ticketing system were due to be sent out on 21 April 2008 and contracts to be signed on 4th November 2008. This invitation to tender invites bids for: "Design, supply, installation and commissioning of the Metro Ticketing System for Nexus. Maintenance of the system will be an option within the Invitation to Tender."
Union warning on Metro safety work
The Journal: May 7 2008
by Adrian Pearson,
UNION bosses have warned that Metro safety standards could be jeopardised if the majority of work on the rail system is privatised.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union have called on Metro owners Nexus to do all it can to avoid selling off responsibility for the rail service, or risk facing the same financial and safety problems which almost crippled the London Underground.
The union wants to make sure that if the Government hands over a £600m Re-invigoration package this summer, it does not lead to Nexus transferring control to the private sector and placing profits before passenger concerns.
Last night Nexus insiders rubbished the union’s fears, insisting that if it did decide to contract out services, they would still own the train system and would set strict standards.
The RMT has warned Nexus bosses to look south if they want to see the results of moving services from the public sector into the hands of private companies.
They are now comparing the potential problems of a Metro changeover to the controversial situation in London when maintenance company Metronet took over.
Yesterday RMT general secretary Bob Crow said Tyneside faces the ghost of Metronet and warned of a tooth-and-nail fight against privatisation.
He said: “The corpse of Metronet is barely cold, yet the Government is insisting that another highly-successful Metro system is subjected to a process that could see its maintenance thrown to the privateers.
“They say that history’s tragedies repeat themselves as farce, but this time there is not even any pretence that there will be any private-sector investment.
“That means that private shareholders stand to get a fat profit for doing nothing more than overseeing what Metro’s own maintenance staff already do perfectly well.”
Nexus has insisted it has no intention of seeing any Metro standards slip.
A spokesman said: “The comparison with Metronet is simplistic. Metronet was one of two similar concessions let by Transport for London to manage infrastructure only.
“Metronet’s performance failed to meet the levels set down by Transport for London while the other concession, Tubelines, continues to operate very successfully. There are lessons to be learned and we’ll incorporate these into our own distinct plans.
“There is no proposal to privatise Metro or break up the operation.”
ENGINEERING firm Metronet was repeatedly criticised for its safety standards in London throughout its four years in charge.
Concerns increased following a train derailment and the company went into administration after overspending by more than £1bn.
It was awarded the maintenance contract in 2003 despite then-mayor Ken Livingstone’s objections and his concerns for safety standards.
By summer 2007, bosses were packing up as anger mounted over the huge sums of taxpayers’ money spent on the increasingly expensive private-sector option.
The company’s financial problems were blamed on Metronet’s policy of sub- contracting work among its partners, a selection of engineers who did not face the same punishments if they failed to do the job on time.