RMT members on Northern Trains were out on strike again in March, resisting attempts by Arriva to undermine the safety-critical role of the on-board guard and to extend driver-only operation to as many as half a million trains a year.
In February this year a train coming into Leeds station uncoupled in transit, blocking the line and leaving 40 passengers trapped. Happily there was a safety-trained guard on hand to lead the mass evacuation to safety across the tracks. With the guard gone, the situation could easily have spiralled out of control with confused passengers wandering about on the tracks in harm’s way. If Arriva has its way, travellers would in future have to fend for themselves.
Such considerations as these cut no ice with the franchise-holder, Arriva. So far as Arriva is concerned, it won the jackpot when it grabbed the franchise and is now doing its damnedest to wring out maximum profits for the remainder of its tenure and maximise its chances of striking lucky again when the franchise is up for renewal. Nothing so mundane as safety can be allowed to get in its way. This sociopathic behaviour is shared by all Arriva’s rival parasites like Virgin and First and the rest of the monopolist pack, and is a direct consequence of the privatisation of the rail industry.
Privatisation of all public services has benefited only the capitalists, by providing footloose capital with an alternative avenue of speculative investment when the opportunities for productive investment began to dry up thanks to the crisis of overproduction. Privatisation of the country’s rail network has lined the pockets of shareholders whilst deepening the exploitation of workers, ripping off the travelling public and playing fast and loose with safety.
CPGB-ML activists travelled to picket lines to support the strikers and distributed leaflets bearing the slogan: Keep the guard on the train, kick the privateers off the railways!