Labour MEPs back passengers and railway workers and vote against new laws that will damage rail sector

Labour MEPs will vote tomorrow against the compulsory opening up of railway contracts across Europe to private sector operators as the new laws do not provide protection for rail workers’ terms and conditions when services are contracted out and also do not ensure good staffing standards on privately-run services.

Despite a long campaign by Labour MEPs and support from UK rail experts and trade unions, if passed by the European Parliament, the so-called ‘political pillar’ of the Fourth Rail Package will come into force across the European Union in the coming years – including in the UK. The Conservative government are enthusiastic backers of the new laws, and are set to fully implement them regardless of the terms and timing of Brexit.

The ‘political’ pillar of the EU Fourth Rail Package consists of amendments to existing EU rail legislation to provide for a framework for ‘open access’ to passenger train service contracts and lines for commercial train operators. Subject to transitional provisions, the measures will come into force by the end of 2019.

Lucy Anderson MEP, Labour’s European Parliament spokesperson on transport, said:

“The private sector has a vital role to play in the railway industry in Europe, and supports much needed innovation and investment, but strategic decisions about how services should be run must remain firmly in the hands of democratically accountable public authorities and governments.

“As shown by our current rail crisis in the UK, too much automatic emphasis on the running of services by commercial operators is letting down all those who travel by train. These new laws undermine fair terms and conditions for railway staff and staffing standards overall and will not benefit passengers.

“The European Commission has utterly failed to justify its case that passengers will benefit from the changes with lower fares and more reliable services, or that enforced market access delivers a shift to rail travel from more environmentally damaging modes of transport.

“Instead, European Commission research published earlier this month shows that despite three previous packages of EU railway legislation the share of passenger rail compared to all transport by land has hardly improved since 2009. The same report also highlights once again the extortionate cost of rail fares in the UK, already subject to compulsory tendering rules for many years.”

Notes to Editors:

1. From 2009 to 2014, the modal share of passenger rail in land transport at the EU level shifted only from 7.1% to 7.5% (p.19). The report also cites the estimated cost of a rail journey from London to Cardiff as more than five times the cost of a car journey (p.62).

2. For example, the report highlights that in relative terms the highest high speed fare found in the EU was an unregulated off-peak single fare of £29.50 from London to Ashford, and the highest EU fare found for trips of more 300km was an unregulated single fare of £140.50 from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh (p.59).

Source: The European Commission Fifth Report on monitoring developments in the Rail Market, (COM, December 2016):