RMT slams ‘crazy’ First MTR decision to drop new £200m SWT trains
First MTR is reported to be abandoning £200m worth of carriages that are being built in Germany – a decision that union RMT has described “crazy” as it called on the government to undertake an investigation into the decision.
The company, which is a partnership between FirstGroup and Hong Kong firm MTR, was awarded the South Western franchise on Monday, but now has allegedly dropped plans for 150 carriages that were ordered in 2014 from Siemens and is instead commissioning new trains on a cheaper annual lease.
First MTR hopes that the new carriages will be rolled out onto the network from 2019.
The operator must deliver 90 new trains and 750 new carriages for the franchise – which it takes over from Stagecoach on 20 August – by the end of 2020.
The RMT has called the situation a “fiasco” and demanded information from the operator about the operational number of the new rolling stock, and for First MTR to reveal what impact the change will have on rail services, safety and the union’s members.
In a statement, general secretary Mick Cash said that First MTR’s decision was another “cast-iron example of the crazy world of rail privatisation”, and called on the government to undertake an urgent investigation into the commissioning process for the rolling stock.
“No one even knows what is going to happen to the dumped rolling stock and what the cost of this fiasco is going to be,” Cash argued. “This is a scandal of huge proportions and comes just days after First MTR muscled their way into the action on this franchise.
“If the government think they can wash their hands of this shambles then they need to think again. The whole debacle nails down the arguments as to why we need public ownership of our railways to end this carnival of chaos.”
RTM has contacted First MTR and Siemens for comment, but at the time of publication had received no reply.
The DfT told the BBC: “First MTR has committed to deliver 750 new carriages by the end of 2020 which will offer more space and improve journeys for passengers on the Windsor, Reading and London suburban routes.
“It is for First MTR South Western to decide how it uses its trains.”
Top Image: Siemens
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