A train company which issued discriminatory guidance to its station staff should be stripped of its rail franchise, say disabled trade unionists.
The TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference in Bournemouth – attended by representatives of 22 unions – heard from a string of delegates who were furious at the guidance and called for action to be taken against Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR).
They voted unanimously for a motion calling for GTR to be stripped of its franchise.
The company – which runs Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Northern – caused a storm of protest last week after it issued guidance telling station staff that they should not attempt to place “persons of reduced mobility (PRM)” on a train “if there is a possibility of delaying the service”.
The company was also criticised for telling staff that “ill passengers need to be removed from the train as quickly as possible” because “not taking action will cause thousands of other passengers to be stuck on trains”.
Dave Allan, from the union Unite, who proposed the emergency motion to remove GTR’s franchise, told the conference that a company that would “treat disabled passengers with such contempt” was “not worth having as a franchise delivering public transport in this country”.
And he drew loud applause when he warned GTR that if it tried to ignore the concerns, disabled activists would “make it so impossible for them to run their timetable… they will rue the day they even thought about it”.
He said the guidance was “absolutely disgraceful” and “only about driving up the profits of their company”.
And he said disabled people supported the aim of increasing the number of rush hour trains, “but not at our expense”.
Allan said: “We are not going to have our members driven back into the guards’ cart where they were 15 or 20 years ago.