A public consultation on train service cuts in Northern Ireland has been called a sham by Unite, with Translink providing only 12 days for the public to respond, well below the typical 12 week period.
The consultation follows a similar exercise on bus service cuts, which provided only four weeks for the public to respond.
The move by Translink has caused Unite rail and bus workforce reps to gather early next week to agree on an industrial action strategy.
Unite regional officer with responsibility for Translink workers, Davy McMurray, called the consultation nothing more than a “rubber-stamping exercise designed to provide political cover for damaging austerity cuts to our public transport schedules.”
McMurray noted other aspects of the consultation that proved Translink’s disingenuousness.
“Rather than coming out with clear proposals and seeking an engagement with the travelling public on the basis of specific proposals, Translink’s questionnaire asks a series of ‘leading’ questions which are clearly designed to justify their, as yet unspecified, plans for rail service cuts,” he said.
McMurray explained that, much like the bus service cuts consultation, the present consultation has deliberately restricted access to information from the public. For example, public information meetings have not been widely advertised and are timed to exclude most people from going – a meeting in Portadown runs from 7:30am to 10am.
“What’s worse is that many towns which will be affected by cuts such as Lisburn, Newry and Whitehead have no planned information events at all,” he added.
“Workers in Translink have been deeply angered by management manoeuvring throughout this process,” McMurray went on to say.
“First they made a big show of a tinkering exercise which failed to address the huge costs of propping up bloated management structures, then they implemented an above-inflation fare hike without any formal consultation, and now they are conducting a second bogus consultation exercise geared to providing a fig-leaf for their pre-ordained but undisclosed cuts to bus and rail services.”
McMurray pointed to the fact that transport cuts are being pushed forward against a backdrop of relentless privatisation.
“The Department for Regional Development is quietly going through the formalities of a consultation exercise on legislation specifically designed to facilitate the contracting-out, break-up and privatisation of bus and rail services,” he noted.
McMurray said that Unite members had had enough and they will promptly developing an industrial action strategy to both protect jobs and defend the integrity of Northern Ireland’s transport system.
Pic by Aubrey Dale