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Rail bailout 'has already cost Government PS24m' UNION BOSSES BATTLING TRAIN FIRM MAKE PAY-OUT CLAIM.

Byline: Mike Kelly Reporter mike.kelly&reachplc.com

UNION bosses estimate the government will have spent PS24 million of taxpayers cash by Christmas to bailout the privately-owned rail company at the centre of a bitter industrial dispute.

The claim was made yesterday by the RMT as its members staged their 40th day of strike action over the introduction of driver-only operated (DOO) trains on Northern, managed by Arriva Rail North.

The union said the cash was enough to pay for the 3.1% fare freeze recommended by the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee last week almost three times over.

According to an RMT spokesperson, prior to his resignation as rail minister, Jo Johnson admitted to MPs that Arriva Rail North had made an application to be reimbursed for revenues lost as a result of industrial action, although the new rail minister, Andrew Jones, subsequently told MPs that the details of any payments made will be "subject to commercial confidentiality".

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "Ministers may say that no strike bailout payments have been made yet to Northern but the facts on the 40th day of strike action are that official parliamentary answers show that the government is assessing Arriva Rail North's request to be bailed out. The government should come clean on how much a bailout will cost the taxpayer.

"This scandalous state of affairs means that not only are Arriva Rail North to be paid by the government when they are not running trains on strike days, it also means the company have no financial incentive to settle the dispute."

Northern has services in Tyneside, County Durham and Northumberland, and the company said driver-only operated trains are widely used elsewhere. The union argues their introduction would put passenger safety at risk.

The RMT blamed Arriva Rail North for the breakdown in talks. Mr Cash said: "RMT remains angry, frustrated and determined to carry on the fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all as Northern Rail slam the door on all efforts to make progress towards a settle-ment that underpins the guard guarantee. It is deeply disappointing that the company have failed repeatedly to meet the union's call to move the issues forwards."

Richard Allan, deputy managing director for Northern, said: "The RMT dispute means customers, businesses and the wider economy in the North have suffered the cost of 40 days of RMT strikes, including every Saturday in September, October, November and now December.

"We can assure all our customers that there will be a suitably trained and qualified Northern employee on the train, in addition to the driver, who will be able to help any customer who needs support with access, personal security, information, ticketing and so on.

"We have promised our conductors that their future role will be on-board our trains, we can guarantee that role until at least 2025, their current pay will be protected (starting salary for conductors is PS28,250 pa), and their pay will be reviewed annually, if RMT ends its damaging dispute.

"There is no reason for RMT to continue striking. Northern remains willing to meet RMT at ACAS at any time for further talks."

The DFT spokesperson added: "The RMT is ending the year as it started it - causing maximum disruption to passengers with more needless strike action, harming the economy of the North of England, and damaging our railways.

"This action isn't about jobs, safety or looking after customers, and the RMT knows this."

CAPTION(S):

| Former Transport minister Jo Johnson

| RMT General Secretary Mick Cash
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Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2018
Words:589
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