The railway industry is in “crisis” amid the failure of the franchise system, a union leader has warned.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said a number of train operators were close to “collapse”.
He told a packed fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool that the current system of public service contracts meant companies did not have to shoulder any financial risks.
“It is a one-way ticket to profit. It’s gangsterism.”
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Mr Lynch said he told the new Transport Secretary that he believed the industry is in crisis when he met her recently.
The meeting with Anne-Marie Trevelyan was held amid the growing industrial unrest on the railways, with more strikes set to be held in the coming weeks in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Mr Lynch said the meeting was a “step forward” although no progress was made in breaking the deadlock.
“It only means she can tick a box. Nothing has changed. There was no outcome, and we will continue with our campaign.”
Mr Lynch said the RMT will not be divided from Labour even though it is not affiliated to the party.
He made a passionate case for the public ownership of transport which he urged Labour to support.
“Money is being made every day while we are being told to accept austerity. Public ownership has got to be part of everything we do and we have to keep Labour’s top table under pressure to support that.”
Shadow rail minister Tan Dhesi said under a Labour government the railways would be taken back into public ownership.
He told the meeting that railway workers had not received the credit they deserved for working through the pandemic and now deserved a decent pay rise and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.