Go-Ahead profits a direct drain on public cash, says RMT
RMT: September 5 2008
Profit-hungry group ‘has declared war on guards’ safety role’
THE £145 million profit declared by the Go-Ahead Group today is a direct drain on fare-payers’ and taxpayers’ cash that should be being invested in the bus and rail industries, transport union RMT charged today.
The group’s profit was funded by nearly £200 million in subsidy for its three rail franchises over 2007/08, inflation-busting fares hikes and untold amounts of public money finding their way into the group’s bus operations from local authorities.
As the company reported a 23 per cent rise in operating profits to the end of June and a 16 per cent hike in dividend payouts to shareholders to £81 million, RMT also warned that the group’s relentless drive for profits was undermining safety and service.
Nearly 500 guards and drivers at Go-Ahead subsidiary South Eastern are already balloting for strike action over an attempt to do away with guards busy commuter trains running in and out of London from Kent. The ballot result is due next Thursday.
“The only people who benefit from rail franchising bus privatisation are the shareholders who are shovelling public subsidy straight into their bank accounts,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
“There is no telling how much more public money Go-Ahead’s bus subsidiaries get, because no-one bothers to keep a central record of the handouts they squeeze from hard-pressed local authorities up and down the country.
“While Go-Ahead is passing the lion’s share of £200 million in rail subsidy to its shareholders, the rest of us are facing fare rises up to three per cent ahead of inflation and a battle to stop a mad cost-cutting attempt to do away with guards on South Eastern.
“Our members are balloting for action to defend the guard’s safety role on new Javelin trains that will carry up to 1,000 passengers through Kent tunnels longer in total that the Channel tunnel.
“I hope that passengers facing inflation-busting fares increases and massive overcrowding will join us in defending safety standards against an attack motivated only by the desire to make even bigger profits,” Bob Crow said.
Notes to editors: Go Ahead’s preliminary results for the year ended 28 June 2008 included
* Group operating profit of £144.9 million, up 22.7 per cent from last year.
* Rail-operating profit of £77.2 million, up £11.1 million.
* Bus-operating profit of £66.2 million, up £10.4 million.
Subsidy to Go-Ahead’s rail subsidiaries in 2007/08 was:
* South Eastern: £82.3 million
* Southern: £65.8 million
* London Midland: £44.7 million
Nearly 500 guards, drivers and customer service hosts on South Eastern Trains are being balloted for industrial action over the company’s intention to extend driver-only operation on new Hitachi Javelin 395 rolling stock. The ballot closes on September 11.
The company’s plans, in breach of existing agreements, involve transferring control of powered doors on trains carrying up to 1,000 passengers – 20 per cent more than Eurostars – to drivers and replacing guards with a new non-safety critical post without the training in on-board safety and train protection, route-knowledge and licence that guards must have..
A twelve-car train made up of two of the new units, with no walk-through between units, will carry as many as 1,000 passengers through tunnels west of Ebbsfleet that together are at least as long as the Channel tunnel, and the union’s view is that there should be a fully safety-trained guard in each portion.
The first five of 29 Javelin sets have already been delivered and SET intends to run the fleet on routes through Kent that are currently fully guarded.