Updated: Wednesday, 20th November 2019 @ 5:06pm

'Massive' train fare increases and staff cuts slammed in Network Rail worker protest at Manchester Piccadilly

'Massive' train fare increases and staff cuts slammed in Network Rail worker protest at Manchester Piccadilly

By Jon Robinson

‘Massive’ train fare increases and cuts to staffing were slammed today by a group of industry workers protesting near Manchester Piccadilly station.

The campaigners are also criticising the closure of ticket offices and cuts to services which will be introduced on January 3 next year.

They also expressed their concern that, in their view, Network Rail and the Coalition Government focus more on profit than safety.

Network Rail rejected the sentiments however, pointing out that any profits were only ‘operating profits’ – and thus ploughed back into the service.

Craig Johnston, North Regional Organiser at the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, said: “The Government and Network Rail are introducing massive cuts to the industry and this is just not fair.

“They just do not seem to care about safety on the railway and their focus is all on profit.”

Mr Johnston added that the protesters, following today’s campaign, are planning to hold similar events in Manchester through to the New Year.

He said: “People today have been very receptive to our cause and a lot of people thoroughly agree with our stance on these cuts and our concerns over safety.

“We want to urge people to get in contact with their local MP to highlight to unfairness of these future cuts.”

One protestor, a member of the platform staff at Manchester Victoria who did not want to be named, said: “I want to highlight to people that these cuts are coming and they will have a real and dramatic impact on services in the New Year.

“The increases in fares, which have happened every year for ages, will really hit those who use trains regularly and depend on them every day. It’s just not fair.”

Another member of the protest, a driver at the same station, said: “Network Rail and the Government care more about profit than safety and quality of service and we aim to fight that until the policy changes.”

A spokesman for Network Rail, said: “The rail industry is the safest form of transport in the country.”

He added that safety levels are at the highest they have ever been and that they have a number of measures in place, such as level crossing closures, which are intended to improve the situation even further.

He said: “Network Rail is a 'not for dividend' company. In other words, unlike the train operators, we do not have shareholders so any profit we make is an operating profit that is ploughed straight back into improving the railway rather than being paid out as dividends to shareholders.”

Picture courtesy of Network Rail, with thanks.

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