A perfect storm of safety failures, cut backs in staff and a shortage of trains is brewing in Norfolk, facilitated by the culmination of twenty six years of railway privatisation, leaving passengers in Norfolk with a decimated rail service and in some cases, no trains at all.
Not even two weeks ago, a brand new Swiss-built Stadler train nearly hit a car on an automatic level crossing north of Norwich on the Norwich – Sheringham line after the barriers raised before the train passed over the level crossing. Industry insiders tell us this is due to the way that the new Stadler units (now nicknamed ‘Basils’ due to their high ‘Faulty’ failure rate) fail to operate track circuits, which are an essential component to detecting the location of trains on the tracks. A train not being detected is an extremely serious matter, such 'wrong side failures' can have deathly effects. Despite having undergone testing across the routes before introduction into service, the problem appears to be much worse than first expected.
It didn’t take long for penny pinching Greater Anglia, which has already cascaded away the older, functioning rolling stock to other routes to duck from taking responsibility for the issue, instead it chose to quote parrot fashion that the problems were due to ‘Signalling Problems’, putting the onus on state owned infrastructure operator Network Rail being at fault, cleverly implying that this was due to a failure of maintenance. The reality would appear to be in fact that Greater Anglia simply failed to design a train which was capable of being run on the existing infrastructure and consequently rushed the introduction of these new units to save operating costs. The choice to give away old rolling stock, rather than retaining it to create an operational safety net has created an appalling level of service for the passengers of Norfolk, with cancellations rife across the regional routes. And all this when in a month when GA announced it was to cut train maintenance jobs at Norwich depot.
...in the race for ever more obscene profit, corners are being cut and a major accident or incident could be just around the corner.
This cascading of rolling stock is rife across Britian, fuelled in part by one of the greatest scandals of the Major-privatisation era, with the selling off of Britain’s trains to a handful of leasing companies under market rates. These Rolling Stock Owning Companies (or ROSCOs) have been shown to have paid a whopping £1.2 Billion in dividends to profiteering shareholders via the tax haven state of Luxembourg between 2012 and 2018. That’s right, £1.2 Billion! Every time you use a train, part of the cost of that expensive ticket you bought is landing right in the pockets of the shareholders!
There is a strong feeling in the industry that in the race for ever more obscene profit, corners are being cut and a major accident or incident could be just around the corner. So often it is by sheer luck and chance that nothing serious comes to pass, as was the case with the recent Norwich Road level crossing incident. Pressures for profits always end up on the shoulders of staff, who face cuts to staff across several major railway functions locally, in Signalling and Maintenance within Network Rail and Ticket Office closures and now on train catering and rolling stock maintenance with Greater Anglia. It’s simply becoming a bore to write again and again of the failures, and hardly surprising that after nine years of Tory rule staff and passengers have little hope with a Conservative government that is unsurprisingly mute when it comes to talking about success stories on Britain's railways.
The only interest of the Tory party is to engage in an idealogical battle with the Railway Unions (who during the privatisation period have become great advocates for railway safety) evidenced most recently by the government subsidising part Chinese-owned operator South Western Railway services to the tune of £87 million during a month long action by SWR Guards who have been on strike fighting for their livelihoods over the intention to impose Driver Only Operation on their routes.
Next Thursday you have a choice. Wherever you live, whoever you are voting for, you can directly influence how Britain responds to the threat of Climate Change through the organisation of our public transport infrastructure. With the Conservatives, the party of the billionaires and the cash cows, you can choose to see Britain have an entirely negative influence in the response to that threat, with a party who will turn a blind eye to a 2.7% fare increase in January 2020, who will pretend that it’s business as usual as they support Greater Anglia in doing away with Ticket Office, Catering and Engineering jobs in Norfolk and will be only to pleased to try and break the spirit of the SWR Guards this Christmas in the pursuit of Driver Only trains and bigger profits.
Or you can take this golden opportunity we have before us to take back real control of our railways, to put them back into the common ownership of the people of Britain, with a bold yet informed and realistic vision to shape our transport infrastructure in a way which not only transform Britain for the better, but create a future in which we can be less dependent on cars, in a greener, cleaner world. Wherever you are in this nation, we urge you to vote Labour or vote tactically to rid us of this great Tory disease which has blighted us for nine ruinous years of ideological austerity. At NOR4NOR we’re always focused on the railways, but we can’t ignore the cries of four million children living in poverty,because of nine years of reckless policy. IN POVERTY. Let that sink in. When the ROSCOs pay out billions in dividends and we have children growing up in our nation hungry and ex-servicemen sleeping rough on the streets, surely we can do better than this? Vote for a People's Railway. Vote Labour.
Top Five Labour Rail Policies: 1) Public Ownership: Taking back real control from profiteering parasitical foreign state rail operators, and running Britain’s trains as a not-for-profit service for the benefit of the British people and economy. 2) Cut Rail Fares by 33%: Forget a 2.7% rise in January, this policy is estimated to give back around £1000 to the average season ticket commuter, with immediate effect. 3) Simple Fares: Scrapping the crazy and complex ticketing system and creating a new central hub for all UK rail tickets. 4) Fare Price Caps: The UK will be divided into travel zones, and once passengers reach the daily limit within their zone, additional travel is free. 5) Under 16s travel free: An immediate money saver for parents, encouraging a whole new generation of young people to get into the habit of using public transport.
You can also support the SWR Guards Strike Fund, via this JustGiving page.