The flawed nature of bus privatisation has been vividly exposed by the announcement that Arriva is closing its depot in Guildford, leaving the travel arrangements of thousands of Surrey residents in turmoil, Unite said today (October 11).
Unite said it was ‘disgraceful’ that Arriva could just walk away, leaving commuters, pensioners and students in the lurch – the union said it would not have happened before bus privatisation in the 1980s.
It is understood that the company operates 16 routes, using about 50 buses, covering Guildford, Woking and Camberley – and that the services will cease operating in mid-December.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “What we see here is a blatant disregard by Arriva for the people of Surrey.
“Passengers and a loyal workforce have been abandoned by this huge company that has no regard for this vital public service – and the reality is it is all too easy for them to simply walk away,” she added. “This has to stop. Making profits from passengers must come with a responsibility to provide a service.
“Arriva’s disgraceful conduct has left bus users in the lurch and their daily journeys in turmoil,” Sharon continued. “This cannot be allowed to happen here or anywhere else.
“This is another unacceptable example of the private sector being around when profits are to be made only to head to the hills once economic challenges appear.”
Unite will be taking part in a consultation process on the future of the affected routes which runs from October 27 to November 11.
The union will be demanding that a generous redundancy package is available, especially for those nearing retirement, and also a redeployment programme for those wishing to stay with the company.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton said, “The turmoil that Surrey bus users now face while a replacement bus company is sought is a cruel example of the flawed deregulation and privatisation business model that Margaret Thatcher foisted on the bus industry in the 1980s.
“It is time that local authorities took back control of these services for the public good,” he added.
“In the meantime, we will be fighting strongly for generous redundancy payments and a comprehensive redeployment scheme for those who want it.”
Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.
By Shaun Noble