I am a fan of our railways. I’ve been travelling by train them more than ever this year, instead of doing longer out-of-town journeys by car, reducing my use of fuel and subsequent pollution and emissions. Reducing our usage of petrol and diesel is a way to lower its price, noting that fuel costs have a high impact on overall inflation and our cost of living. Russia’s murderous war machine benefits from high oil demand and the sooner that Europe can stop importing Russian oil, the better.
As I write at the weekend, we are facing three separate days of national rail strikes for the week ahead, cynically spread out over six days to also create disruption on the non-strike days. Unlike Labour politicians both national and local, I totally condemn these rail strikes without hesitation.
Millions of people including many of us here in Crawley, are going to have their everyday lives disrupted. This reckless strike action is the last thing our economy needs right now and no doubt this week will see millions more car journeys taking place with added congestion on our roads.
Rail strikes will also hamper the rail industry at the worst possible time. Covid has left our railways in a critical financial situation. Even now, rail has lost a fifth of its pre-Covid passengers and a fifth of its income. The new body created by the government, Great British Railways, is designed to put passengers and punctuality first, by using common-sense reforms to untangle the complexities and build a modern and resilient railway.
Our railways cost over £20 billion a year to run. In the year to April 2021, they raised just £4 billion from fares and other revenue. Since the start of the pandemic, the government has committed £16 billion of emergency taxpayer support for rail. No one believes that rail workers shouldn’t have a fair pay rise, but it needs to be sustainable and in line with everyone else’s. Our country cannot be held to ransom by the left-wing RMT, who want to hold back reforms to modernise and improve our railways.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
22nd June 2022