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Row over South West Trains & Network Rail scheme intensifies

A row over the success or failure of a pilot project teaming up private rail firms and rail infrastructure has intensified. Earlier today Bob Crow - the leader of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) - criticised the scheme's performance - saying standards had slipped.

However the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, whose collaboration sparked the comments has responded to the RMT's claims, saying it was wrong to compare a period of challenging bad weather last year with one of the best periods ever this year - including the Olympic Games in London.

"In his rush to try to make an opportunistic political point, Bob Crow has chosen to not look at the wider picture and has been selective in his choice of evidence to support his claims. The fact is that in the first period of the Alliance, which the RMT are using as a comparison, our services were heavily impacted by severe weather, something completely out of our control, which cannot possibly be compared against one of the best periods ever during April 2011.

"The reality is that over the first five months of the Alliance, we have maintained our high level of performance on one of Europe's busiest commuter network and the most recent figures show that last month we achieved the highest level of punctuality in two years at 95.8%.

"This was achieved against a backdrop of some major challenges, including flooding on the network and the increased numbers of passengers travelling on our network during the London 2012 Games.

"Our frontline staff, including RMT members, have helped our trains continue to be amongst the most punctual in the country. But we are determined to keep on improving. The more collaborative approach under the Alliance will help us to deliver an even better service to passengers and a more efficient railway for taxpayers."

– South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance spokesperson

Union says rail merger project in 'free fall'

The rail workers' union has revealed figures today that it claims show the Government's pilot project for merging private rail companies with infrastructure is in 'free fall'.

The RMT says performance standards have collapsed in the 'so-called "deep alliance" pilot' on South West Trains.

According to the union, performance on South West Trains fell by 3.7% in the first full month of the project; while average punctuality in the six months to September fell by 0.6% compared to the same six months in 2011 before the project came into force.

“Not only is the whole franchising system in chaos today but the Government’s own pilot for giving the private sector a controlling influence on infra-structure, under the terms of the McNulty Rail Review, is in meltdown as well.

“The “deep alliance” was supposed to improve punctuality and performance but as these figures show the opposite is in fact the case and passengers on this vital commuter service, facing fare hikes of up to 11% in January, can see standards of service in meltdown.

“The overwhelming case for scrapping McNulty and renationalising the railways is now staring the Government smack bang in the face."

– Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary


SWT strike still planned for Friday

Rail workers in the south say they are still planning to take industrial action during the Olympics in a row over a Games bonus payment.

Up to 1,000 members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union at South West Trains will work to rule, including a ban on overtime, from Friday, the day of the opening ceremony, to August 12, the last day of the Games.

Union members at the firm rejected going on strike but voted for other forms of action.

The union has been seeking a bonus for its members for working during the Games, but SWT insisted it had already agreed a wage deal which covers the Olympics period.


RMT latest from our Transport Correspondent

Staff at SW Trains voted not to strike during the Olympics but may still refuse to work overtime/rest days, writes Mike Pearse. The company welcomed the news and said managers have been trained to take the place of workers who took part in any action.

The vote not to strike was by a majority of four votes. The row centres on an RMT union demand for a bonus for working during the Olympics. They say with an extra 80,000 passengers a day they should be compensated for the extra work. They say other companies are paying up to £750.

But managers say it was included in a deal of over four per cent this year and have insisted they will not pay. With managers trained, it is expected the vast majority of passengers willnot be affected.

Action but no strikes on South West Trains

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South West Trains have voted to take industrial action short of a strike in a row over an Olympic bonus, but rejected strikes by a narrow margin of just four votes.

General Secretary Bob Crow said: "Our members have been consulted by the union in this democratic vote and by the narrowest margins have opted not to take strike action but have voted by a significant margin for action short of a strike.

"The position will be considered further by the union's executive."

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