Tony Potts writes:
Although talks between Arriva Rail North and the RMT were taking place this week, there is still no sign of the strike action being lifted. Our MP, Trudy Harrison, raised the matter at Prime Minister’s Questions on 7 December, asking the Prime Minister to condemn the RMT action after our local line had suffered 42 days of strikes. These had left vulnerable people with no public transport, even though she had been assured by the Transport Secretary that guards would still be used on the Cumbrian coastal line. The Prime Minister did condemn the RMT action but didn’t make any further comment.
I have been asked by a Millom member about the strike situation, as just as we were given a seven-day railway, we have now reverted to a six-day one! An elderly couple in Whitehaven asked me about the situation, saying that they wouldn’t feel safe about travelling by train without a guard being present.
On 27 November I saw on Border News that an exhibition was being shown at Carlisle about the HS2 line. I went there that afternoon and spoke to the two people in charge (it comprised two banners showing the route map), who told me that they are consulting people about the possibility of stopping HS2 trains at Carlisle while they attach or detach 250m sections. They are also looking at having a maintenance depot there. We need members’ views on this.
On 30 November I was asked by Kris Tatum, a News and Star reporter, for a comment on the fare rises in January. I replied saying that any problems on our local line should be laid at the door of the Department for Transport for lack of investment in the north-west. However it was announced this week that Network Rail is to renew track between Bootle and Silecroft in the new year, which will mean bustitution between Whitehaven and Millom on six Sundays.
I had been asked by Richard Greene, a student, to give a filmed interview about our local line to help with his studies. We met at Barrow station on 16 November for this, and he promised to let me have details of his studies sometime this month.
On 15 November I was interviewed by Radio Cumbria on our local railway. Subsequently I was interviewed again on 7 December jointly with the RMT’s Craig Johnston and a representative of local small businesses on the effect the strikes are having locally. I mentioned that to resolve the situation, ARN could approach the Department for Transport for derogation to have a guard on the train, for which they would need extra funding.
The new timetable comes into effect on 9 December.
One member has mentioned to me the lack of heating on both loco-hauled and DMU trains. I had felt this myself, so I would like all members to report any instances of poor heating on our local trains.