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Union calls on government to detail impact of £2bn cut to train and rail funding

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A major trade union has called on the government to be more transparent about its plans to cut public funding of the railways by £2bn.

Writing to transport secretary Grant Shapps, the head of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes, asked whether the Department for Transport (DfT) was still planning on cutting £2bn from railways as announced last year.

He also wanted answers about what level of service passengers can expect from this April and wanted a commitment that any cost cutting measures would not lead to compulsory job losses.

The DfT already announced in December that ticket prices will rise by 3.8 per cent from 1 March 2022, the largest hike in nearly a decade.

The unusually large increase reflects the UK’s Retail Prices Index from last July but is still lower than the 7.1 per cent inflation rate at the time of the announcement.

The UK’s railways have come under significant financial pressure since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic as rail journeys fell to levels not seen since the Victorian era.

This has led Transport for London to warn that the capital’s services could grind to a halt without a significant funding package from the Government.

Commenting on the situation, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “The government must come clean on its plans for our railways. Passengers and staff deserve to know what’s happening to their services and their industry and what level of rail services the government wants our country to run.

“The government severance programme for staff across our railways put the cart before the horse – trying to get staff out of the industry without having plans for what operations need to be staffed. 

“Our railways are crucial to our economy, our fight against the climate crisis and in keeping our country connected. Cutting our railways would cause greater harm.”

The Labour party’s London Assembly transport spokesperson, Elly Baker, said: “Londoners are seeing their transport system downgraded by the government at a critical juncture when we should be moving away from relying on cars to get around the capital and when vital investment is needed to boost our economic recovery.

“I think Londoners need to be able to see confirmation of the government’s exact plans for scaling back rail services from next week. I am particularly concerned that this will have significant implications for key workers on their commute and disabled passengers.

“I am also asking for reassurances that timetable changes won’t be made permanent under the cover of the pandemic – leading us down a slippery slope of the managed decline of our public transport network.”

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