The TSSA, one of the unions representing East Coast rail staff, are leading a coalition of groups in a campaign to Keep East Coast Public (Facebook page). On Wednesday the 30th October the group organised a well attended public meeting in York to raise awareness and plan the next stage of action.You can contribute to the planning through their online survey. So far, they’ve organised a 38degrees petition, as well as an action on Tuesday (5th November) at York Station from 7:35am – 9:30am.
The meeting was addressed by Lilian Greewood MP, Labour shadow rail minster, and Andi Fox, an East Coast staff member and TSSA rep. Both speakers gave persuasive and informative contributions although the Labour shadow minster would not commit to wider rail re-nationalisation.
Following the dismal failure of the privatised franchising process in 2009, the government was forced to re-nationalise the East Coast Mainline. Since then, the service has returned more than £500 million to the Treasury in surplus that otherwise would have gone to a private company in profit. In addition, East Coast Mainline has invested money in service improvements and has one of the highest level of customer satisfaction of any European train service. Despite (or perhaps even because of) its success as a nationalised company, the coalition government are now in the process of re-privatising the line.
After hearing questions and comments from the floor, the meeting broke into several smaller groups to discuss ways of bringing more local people into the campaign and practical activities that could take place in York. Ideas included closer work with the local media, engaging specific groups such as students and retired residents and use of social networking and the internet.
The meeting offered a wealth of information about this disastrous, government plan and the very real ways in which it will impact on passengers and taxpayers. To give just one example, a privatised franchise would likely result in services with fewer carriages, increasing overcrowding and reducing the number of seats reserved for passengers with disabilities.
For now, the group are planning an action this coming Tuesday (5th November) at York Station from 7:35am – 9:30am. This month marks twenty years since rail privation and the group are using this anniversary to talk to passengers about the Keep East Coast Public campaign. They would welcome any support members of York People’s Assembly are able to offer.
Report by group members Mary and Andy.