'Respect our transport workers - and back our buses'

RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch speaks at a rally outside Kings Cross station, London, as train se

RMT general secretar, Mick Lynch speaks at a rally outside Kings Cross station - Credit: PA

Pensioners have long campaigned for safe travel, both on local buses and national rail.

We opposed "driver only" trains, knowing that the presence of a guard on the train reassures older passengers. We also fought the closure of ticket offices, regarding ticket machines a poor substitute. Negotiation on "modernisation" issues that affect travel safety has triggered the current rail strikes. 

This week chaos reigned. However, the strikes made it obvious that efficient and affordable public transport is essential for a thriving economy. Also, climate change demands promotion of public transport to avoid gridlock and pollution on our roads. With government support both could be achieved.  

Yet according to the RMT website: "It has to be re-stated that the source of these disputes is the decision by the Tory government to cut £4bn of funding from our transport systems - £2bn from national rail and £2bn from Transport for London." 

Hornsey Pensioners Action Group's Janet Shapiro

Janet Shapiro says that efficient and affordable public transport is essential for a thriving economy - Credit: HPAG

Those workers who keep our public transport functioning day in day out must be respected. The RMT has been engaged in discussions with three different employers – Network Rail, Train Operators and London Underground. The agenda includes promotion of modernisation measures. RMT workers are willing to discuss these given an assurance that any redundancies would be voluntary. 

One worrying "modernisation" issue is whether inspection and repair of rail tracks, currently carried out by gangs of workers, could be reduced using improved automatic monitoring. While onsite inspection is both expensive and hazardous, I suspect that workers would warn against abandoning thorough inspection.  

A bus review by Transport for London (TfL) ends on July 12 (haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/busreview).  

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Quoting from the link:  "TfL’s reliance on customer fares for the majority of its income means the effect of the pandemic on our finances has been devastating, requiring Government support to keep public transport in London operating. Customer numbers have begun to recover, but are still significantly below pre-pandemic levels."  

While he was mayor of London, Boris Johnson had imposed on TfL a responsibility to be self financing, a practice not adopted by any other European city.  

Buses are important to our members and some local routes are threatened; we urge readers to respond to the TfL survey.  

Janet Shapiro is coordinator for Hornsey Pensioners Action Group.