Union fears over rail safety amid budget cuts

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The Independent Online

Union leaders today raised "serious safety fears" over rail maintenance if the transport budget is slashed under Government plans to curb public spending.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union warned that maintenance and renewal work on the railways would be "savaged" if cuts of up to 40% went ahead.

The union attacked Government policies on the railways, saying that procurement of new rolling stock was being scrapped, fares were set to increase by up to 10% and developments like high-speed and electrification were being shelved.

Secretary Bob Crow said: "With cuts of up to 40% in the transport budget, we are looking at thousands of job losses amongst the staff who operate and maintain services, with dire consequences for passenger safety as corners are cut.

"It is crystal clear that modernisation and upgrade works will be axed, with high-speed, electrification and Crossrail all on the butcher's block.

"With the Government also planning to raise fares by up to 10%, it doesn't take a genius to see that the state-funded racket of rail privatisation is being protected from the scorched-earth economics of the ConDems.

"The public will be forced to pay through the nose to travel on condemned and crowded trains on creaking and dangerous track while the private rail companies are laughing all the way to the bank."

A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "The RMT needs to start thinking about how rail can respond to the challenges facing public finances and stop rubbishing the industry in which so many staff work hard to deliver an improving service to passengers.

"Investment in Britain's growing railway is vital if the current record levels of performance and customer satisfaction are to keep pace with demand, which is expected to double in the next 20 years.

"But it is our shared responsibility, across the industry and with the Government, to put rail on a more stable and sustainable footing.

"The average age of the UK's train fleet is one of the lowest in Europe and the whole industry continues to place the highest priority on safety - rail travel is now three times safer than bus travel and over 30 times safer than travelling by car."