Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Please Sir, a little less profit - just for a bit!

Last week Hackney Unites, the TSSA (Transport Salaries Staff Association) and Hackney Trade Union Council came together to organise a meeting about Public Transport and the challenges ahead. The purpose of the meeting was to allow for a discussion on exactly what the cuts in public transport are likely to mean to residents, workers, young people, families and businesses in Hackney. Teena Lashmore reports..

A representative from the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) gave a brief summary on the potential consequences of 800 job losses which are currently on the table for London Underground’s ticket staff. In summary, the losses and gains for transport users may mean less staff to help you if you are trying to get children and prams up stairs or need assistance with mobility. Although many stations do have escalators or lift facilities not all do.

Now that transport in London is mostly covered by Oyster - with ticket machines available in most stations, it seem wholly reasonable that we need less ticket staff, but this becomes a little different when you want to journey outside the M25 boundary. Finally, the escorting of passengers down the train lines and back into stations when the trains breakdown. With less platform and ticket staff, this is likely to mean passengers will have to wait on the train in the tunnel until staff are ferried in from other locations.

Unite supports a hybrid of workers across a range of services and their representative spoke mainly on the changes of Arriva Busses. He explained the loss of the ‘bendy bus’ (route 38 and 149), has already had an impact on the bus workers, users and the environment. He explained the capacity of 40 bendy buses is met using approximately seventy double-decker buses, causing more pollution and resulting in more vehicles on the roads. The biggest losses are to people with prams, those carrying heavy shopping and those with mobility needs. Finally the salary losses to the individual bus drivers is about a 25% drop, as they are removed from the articulated buses and put back on the double-deckers.

Whatever the back issues to the ‘efficiency savings’ are, it is clear that those with the better ‘spin’ will get greater support from the public; however, what appears absent is the user’s voice. My journey on the 149 from Stoke Newington to London Bridge used to take just over half an hour on the bendy and on the double-decker it is closer to forty five minutes. I understand this is due to the ‘dwell time’ which is how long it takes for all the passengers to enter and exit the two doors where as on the bendy there were multiple entries.

Unlike all the other areas being cut or undergoing efficiency saving, public transport is different. It has unique business characteristics. In particular, it continues to make profits. So much so that Chief Executives in these ‘transport’ businesses are reportedly receiving salaries beyond one hundred thousand pounds every year. So when we talk about ‘cuts’ in public transport running costs, what we are actually discussing is making less profits. This being the case, perhaps its time to ask public transport providers if they could be so kind as to make a little less profit from us this year?

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