Tagged: Manchester

NE solicitors to join nationwide boycott over legal aid cuts

Solicitors in the North East will join a nationwide boycott that could see criminal courts grind to a halt.

Lawyers in the region have backed an unprecedented protest over the government’s cut to legal aid, which comes into force today.

They said a planned 8.75% cut to the publicly funded criminal legal aid budget was “uneconomic” and “unsustainable”.

Mass meetings of solicitors and barristers who specialise in criminal work were originally held in Liverpool but later also in Newcastle, London, Manchester, Leeds, and other cities.

All agreed not to take on any legal aid cases as of today, but will continue to do duty work to avoid breaching their contract.

Legal aid is the help given to people that may not otherwise afford their own lawyers and is a big source of income for many firms.

Solicitors in the Northumbria area, which includes, Newcastle, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead, have backed the nationwide action after they held a meeting at Northumbria University on Monday night.

Lewis Pearson, deputy vice-president of the Newcastle Law Society and partner at Pearson Caulfield solicitors, in Newcastle, said the boycott was a last-ditch effort to save legal aid.

Full story :  http://northstar.boards.net/thread/164/solicitors-join-nationwide-boycott-legal

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Police called to job interview – applicant stages sit-in

Police were called when a woman refused to leave a job interview after being turned down.

The candidate lost her temper and would not budge for 90 minutes following the unsuccessful meeting in Manchester city centre on Wednesday morning.

Officers were called to the ‘sit-in’ shortly after 11am.

Staff said the applicant told them: “Go on! Call the police!” and refused to move for about 90 minutes.

When police arrived at the scene she had disappeared.

It’s believed the woman was turned down after failing to bring her passport to the interview, which had been asked for on the original application.

GMP City Centre tweeted after the incident: “Odd job 11am. Woman who attended job interview staged 90 minute ‘sit-in’ after being told she wasn’t being considered. Left upon our arrival.”

http://northstar.boards.net/thread/105/police-job-interview

David Cameron Urged To Meet With Victims Of Tory Austerity

A church minister has written a stirring and emotional letter to David Cameron, urging the Prime Minister to meet with victims of austerity and consider the “social and human cost” of Tory policies.

In a letter posted on the social network Facebook, which has been shared over 100,000 times and sent to Downing Street, Reverend Mike Walsh says he agrees with the PM that the best route out of poverty is by moving into work. But says David Cameron doesn’t seem to understand that people are scared about “what your policies will do to our communities and families”.

Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools. Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of a few quid saving from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.”

Reverend Walsh, from The United Reformed Church, says Tory policies are “couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books”, and pleaded with Mr Cameron “to govern for everyone and unite the country”.

“The country isn’t a business, it’s its people. All its people. And you are everyone’s Prime Minister whether we voted for you or not.”

David Cameron may better understand the human cost of austerity measures if he spent “a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank”, says Reverend Walsh.

Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can’t afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry.”

He added: “If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don’t believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.”

Foodbank charity Trussell Trust gave out more than one million food parcels in 2014/15, with benefit delays cited as the primary cause of rising food poverty in the UK.

Foodbank use is soaring. Source: Trussell Trust
Foodbank use is soaring. Source: Trussell Trust

The full letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister,

I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I have some things I wish to say to you.

You have won the General Election and command a majority in the House of Commons, and as such will feel you have a legitimate mandate to govern. However, you must also know that you don’t command a majority of the British people.

Although our political views are very much at odds on many issues, I’m willing to believe that you are a good man, as sure of your ideals as I am of mine, and believe your plan is what’s best for us all. You said today that you will govern for the whole country and bring back together that which has clearly fractured. I hope you will.

But Prime Minister, though you can obviously see your party did not win the confidence of Scotland and huge swathes of the north of England, I’m not sure your party quite understands why. It’s not because we’re all ‘loony-left’ or extremists and nationalists, it’s because so many of us are scared. Scared of what your policies will do to our communities and families. Scared of what will happen to our health service and our schools. Scared of losing our family homes for the sake of a few quid saving from the bedroom tax, or not being able to heat our home and have enough left to buy food.

I don’t disagree with you that the best way out of poverty is to work, nor do I think that people should get something for nothing and expect the tax-payer to support people indefinitely if they are able to work. Who would think that that was ok and fair?

But your party’s policies on these issues, couched in terms of reducing the deficit and balancing the books, don’t seem to take into account the social and human cost of such actions. The country isn’t a business, it’s its people. All its people. And you are everyone’s Prime Minister whether we voted for you or not.

You said today you will govern for everyone and unite the country. I hope you do. But to be able to do so you need to make it a priority in your first 100 days, to spend time in Scotland visiting people on zero hours contracts. Come to Manchester and talk with those who have been sanctioned for having a spare room, but have nowhere else to go. Go to Liverpool and meet people with disabled dependents who can’t afford even one nanny, or to Newcastle and talk to people still living in poverty due to the demise of the coal industry. Spend a week or two living on the minimum wage, or volunteer in a food bank for a whole day.

Then Prime Minister you might begin to understand the cost of your policies from the other side, to see people as more than their net contribution to the economy, or as deliberate drains on the system. If you do that, then maybe you can heal some of the fractures in our society. Without this I just don’t believe you can see just how crucial these issues are.

So please Prime Minister, leave Westminster for a few hours a week and truly strive to govern for all of us.

Rev’d Mike Walsh

The United Reformed Church

Source –  Welfare Weekly, 13 May 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/david-cameron-urged-to-meet-with-victims-of-tory-austerity/

Outdated Pacer trains WILL be scrapped – but civil servants objected to £250 million cost

Outdated and uncomfortable “Pacer” trains are to be axed from rail services in the North and replaced by 120 brand new vehicles, the Government has announced.

The decision to scrap the trains, which have been compared to cattle trucks, was made by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin as he launched the contest inviting rail operators to bid to run the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises.

It brings to an end speculation that the vehicles could stay, or could be replaced by second hand trains from another part of the country.

But it also emerged that Mr McLoughlin faced a battle with civil servants – who argued that the £250 million cost of the new vehicles was poor value for money.

The Transport Secretary was forced to issue a “written directive”, a formal note confirming that he had been advised against requiring new trains but wanted his officials to go ahead anyway.

Mr McLoughlin told his staff that scrapping the Pacers was essential, warning: “I do not think that the continued use of these uncomfortable and low quality vehicles is compatible with our vision for economic growth and prosperity in the North.”

He also said that many Northern lines were unlikely to be electrified, so it was important to ensure new diesel trains were built because there is an industry-wide shortage of diesel vehicles.

It means the decision will now be scrutinised by a Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, but while this could potentially criticise Mr McLoughlin it does not have the power to over-rule him.

Pacers were introduced in the 1980s as a short-term solution to a lack of rolling stock. Their future had been unclear until now, with senior Ministers including the Prime Minister promising they would go, while a series of official Government documents stated they could instead be refurbished and remain in use.

The Northern franchise operates local, commuter and rural services throughout the region, and a number of long distance services linking major cities.

As well as replacing the pacers with new trains, the winner of the franchise will be expected to modernise other vehicles on the route, double the number of services on may routes, provide more off-peak and Sunday services, invest at least £30 million to improve stations and introduce free Wi-Fi on all Northern trains by 2020 at the latest.

Bidders for the franchise are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. They have until 26 June to submit their plans.

The TransPeninne Express franchise provides longer distance intercity-type services, connecting the major cities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Manchester Airport.

Improvements the government wants the bidders to introduce include introducing extra capacity for passengers through more carriages and more services; providing earlier and later services and more services on Sundays; considering options for new services such as extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh, and introducing free Wi-Fi on all TransPennine Express trains by 2020 at the latest.

The bidders are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited, and they must submit their proposals by 28 May 2015.

Both new franchises are due to start operating in April 2016.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Feb 2015

Newcastle could see first demo of European racist group Pegida

A notorious European ‘anti-Islam’ movement says it will hold its first British demo in Newcastle.

Pegida has sparked huge controversy in Germany.

Under the banner of ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West’, it claims it is trying to defend countries from the spread of extremism at the hands of Muslim immigrants.

It brought 25,000 to the streets of Dresden in demos backing its cause.

But it also sparked huge counter demos, with 100,000 protesting against its stance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described it as racist, and Pegida’s leadership was said to be in crisis with “massive hostility, threats and career disadvantages” causing five of its senior members to step down after its founder was pictured dressed as Adolf Hitler.

It is advertising its first ever UK demo for Newcastle on February 28, the Mirror has reported.

It is the first of a series of demos planned for the UK, with others due to take place in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Northumbria Police has yet to be notified about the event.

 

Pegida’s UK spokesman told the Mirror:

“We do not want to attract extremists to this rally.

“We are against radical Islam, hate preachers and believe Muslims need to adapt to our way of life in the West instead of us adapting to them.

“We do not want to do anything illegal and we will liaise with the police over this even if it means delaying the march by a week or two.

“We expect anywhere from 500 to 3,000 people for our first rally, and could then move on to London, Manchester and Birmingham.

“We chose Newcastle as neutral ground. This is a new and peaceful movement, and we do not want to get into any racist, right wing stuff.

> Well that’ll confuse the home-grown right wing loonies… are they supposed to support it or not ?

“This is against extremism. If we can get 300 terrorists out of the UK, then as far as we are concerned that is a step in the right direction.”

Northumbria Police said they had not been contacted by the organisers of the February 28 event.

The group has also held its first march in Austria, where it attracted a few hundred supporters.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Feb 2015

Conservative Health Chair Criticises David Cameron’s Welfare Cuts Plans

David Cameron’s plans to target benefit cuts at the young and vulnerable have come under fire from within his own party.

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health committee, said she did not support scrapping housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, after the prime minister toured the television studios detailing some of the Tories’ proposals to cut another £12bn from the welfare budget.

In a series of interviews, Cameron repeated his pledge to lower the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per family alongside proposals to stop housing benefit for school-leavers. The cap was about a “basic issue of fairness”, he said.

“I don’t think a family should be able to get more in benefits than someone going out to work, working every day, and trying to do the right thing for them and their family,” he said.

> If anyone ever does get more in benefits than someone working (which I doubt) , perhaps it’d be because the wages they are earning are so poor, or they’re only working 16 hours a week.

But in any case, you can only play the hand you’ve got, so if it did happen that you’d get more on benefits than by working…why not ? Cameron & Co  probably dodge paying more  tax in a year than you’d claim.

“One of the criticisms of the cap set at £26,000, which I have heard all over the country, is that the cap was set too high. We’re responding to that.

“We’re generating these jobs. People listening to this programme don’t pay their taxes to sustain people on welfare who could work.”

> Well actually, yes they do – National Insurance, at least. When working I’ve never grudged paying NI (much) because I paid it in the belief that I could claim some of it back should I become unemployed, and also – and this is an important point –  that it should go towards helping others unemployed even if I wasn’t.

He said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living on welfare as “a lifestyle choice” and claimed Conservative plans would help “young people move into work more quickly”.

> A lifestyle choice ?  And I thought it was a survival choice….the choice being survive or die.

However, his proposals on scrapping housing benefit for young people came under fire from Wollaston and a number of charities.

Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, told the BBC’s Daily Politics:

“That is a policy that I don’t actually support. The point is that there is a debate going forward, I would not support personally taking housing benefit from the most vulnerable. I would not personally support taking away housing benefit from the very young. I think because there is an issue here we need to discuss about intergenerational fairness … There are many policies within parties that we have a debate about.”

Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft later added that the Conservatives need to “get the tone right” to make sure they sound sympathetic towards those who cannot work.

“I firmly believe there is only one nasty party and it’s a very nasty party called Ukip. What the Conservative party needs to do is to be careful that it does not appear to be in the least nasty, but kind and caring and wants people to work because it is the best possible solution to them as well as the country,” she told the World at One.

> HA HA HA HA HA ! Maybe you’d appear kind and caring if you were kind and caring. No-one who has been fucked over by the Tories is going to forget it.

The warnings came the day after academics from the LSE, Manchester and York published a new study showing the coalition’s cuts are disproportionately hitting families with young children.

Among the charities to issue warnings about the proposed benefit cap were the Child Poverty Action Group. Its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said:

“Let’s be absolutely clear – the benefit cap is at least nine times more likely to affect children than adults, and the majority of adults it hits are lone parents, many of whom have children so young even the government recognises they should not be required to work.

> The parent or the children ?  I only ask because the government making small children work just seems so likely…

“On the day that a major programme of research by academics from leading universities shows families with young children have been more impoverished than anyone else in recent years, we have another policy-push that would undercut the most vulnerable.”

Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, weighed in on the issue of housing benefit, saying it would cause further misery for vulnerable young people.

“The 80,000 young people who find themselves homeless will think David Cameron is more focused on May’s elections than the reality that, for the most vulnerable young people in our society, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice,” he said.

Source –  The Guardian,  27 Jan 2015

North East business leaders call for closer ties between schools and industry as survey finds teens not ready for work

More than one in three businesses who took on North East school leavers rated their recruits as unprepared for work, a new survey has found.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which is part of the Department for Business, asked organisations who took on 17 to 18-year-olds how they felt their new employees shaped up.

More than one in three employers in this region said the teens were “poor” or “very poor” – almost 20% more than the national average, and placing Newcastle and Sunderland behind the likes of Liverpool and Manchester.

When the question was asked of 16-year-old recruits, the proportion of dissatisfied firms rose to 38% in Newcastle.

A lack of experience of working life was the top reason cited by the city’s employers as the quality lacking from their 17 to 18 year old workers.

> Huh ?  They’ve just left school ! How much experience do you expect them to have ?

That was followed by a poor attitude or personality, and a lack of the required skills.

> Lack of skillls ? Well, aren’t you supposed to teach them those skills ?

Poor attitude or personality ? Yeah, are you really the best judge of that, Mr Boss ? Not on the available evidence…

In response both the North East Chamber of Commerce and regional representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses renewed calls for greater links between industry and schools.

“There’s been a real debate for a long while about work readiness, and not just about school leavers, but about people leaving colleges as well,” said Ted Salmon, chairman of the FSB in the North East.

“Sometimes basic things are lacking – it’s not just about maths and English, but about the ability to interact with people, to write business letters or emails, and to get to work on time.

“And we can debate over what subjects are right to help people into work – but it needs to be part of a wider debate between business and education over how we can encourage more interaction.”

> What they really want is a conveyor-belt of disposable, low-wage slaves that already have all the skills even though they don’t know what job they might be doing.

Mr Salmon expressed concern at the apparent difficulties of speaking to schools in a non enterprise day context, with teachers nervous that closer ties with business could mean extra work for themselves or their pupils on top of the usual curriculum.

“Half the battle is showing teachers how what they already do can relate to business,” said Mr Salmon, “and just to even start that is so difficult because there are so many league tables and exam pressures.

“But when you go in and see the children on an enterprise day you see how switched on they are by it – so we need to break down that barrier and the frustrating lack of communication between schools and business.”

> Perhaps some teachers can see all too clearly where its all leading…

NECC director of policy, Ross Smith, agreed. “Links between education and business are essential to ensure we are producing young people who are ready to fill roles within the North East labour market and are comfortable in the working environment,” he said.

> 16-hour a week cleaning jobs ? Zero-hour contracts ? That seems to be mainly what’s on offer in my job searches within the North East labour market.

“Likewise, we must take the fear out of employing, training or simply giving experience to young people. According to our own 2014 Workforce Survey, businesses see this as costly, time-consuming and restrictive – this must be addressed.

> Or they could see it as an investment in the future. They always used to. But now, of course, its anything for a quick profit, including the workforce.

“A great deal of progress has been made in recent years, but we must continue to work hard if we are to make significant in-roads into addressing regional youth unemployment and potential skills shortages in key sectors in our region.”

> No, a great deal of progress has not been made – we’ve gone backwards, so that now everyone is expected to be fully trained before they start the job.

NECC’s own 2014 Workforce Survey actually painted a bleaker picture of what the region’s firms think of teenagers, with almost three quarters of employers reporting that sixth formers and college leavers were unprepared for work.

> Probably not as bleak a picture as what teenagers think of employers !

Just over half also complained that graduates were not ready – with the main reason given being a lack of work experience.

> Because they’ve just left school ! Good grief, it makes you wonder about the idiots running these companies… or perhaps not.

However, almost a third of the businesses surveyed admitted they don’t offer work experience placements to school pupils, with many saying that placements were too costly and time consuming, or that the requirements set by schools and colleges were too restrictive.

However 52% said they current offer apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year-olds .

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Dec 2014

Firms Flouting The Minimum Wage Not Prosecuted In The Past Year

This article  was written by Daniel Boffey, for The Observer on Saturday 22nd November 2014 20.28 UTC

The coalition’s record on low pay has come under attack as new figures revealed that not a single company has been prosecuted in the past year for paying less than the national minimum wage. Despite ministers’ claims that the government is getting tough on under-payers, the last successful criminal prosecution was in February 2013.

That was one of only two prosecutions during the government’s entire term of office to date, according to figures given to parliament. The cases involved the imposition of fines to the value of £3,696 on an opticians in Manchester and £1,000 on a security company in London.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for the Office for National Statistics recently found that about 287,000 workers were paid at less than the minimum wage in 2012, although the TUC puts the figure closer to 350,000.

Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust, the charity that runs 400 emergency food banks, said that the increasing numbers of people attending its facilities was clear evidence that ministers needed to do more to protect people who were living “on the edge”.

The number of people helped by Trussell Trust food banks in the first half of the 2014-15 financial year is 38% higher than in the same period last year. The trust reported this weekend that 492,641 people were given three days’ food and support, including 176,565 children, between April and September. That compared with 355,982 during the same period in the previous year.

Problems with the social security system continued to be the biggest overall trigger for food bank use (45%), of which “benefit delays” accounted for 30% of referrals, and “benefit changes” 15%, according to the charity.

However, an emerging trend, according to the charity, is that 22% of those helped were referred because of “low income” compared with 16% of referrals in the same period last year – meaning 51,000 more people were referred to a food bank due to low income.

Mould said:

“It is up to the democratically elected parliament to make some decisions and one route is to make it less easy for people to be exploited at the bottom of the labour market. We see people forced to cycle in and out of poverty and they are so close to the edge that it is easy for them to slip under.”

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that it prosecutes the most serious breaches of the national minimum wage “and where there is clear evidence to do so”. A spokesman said the average cost of a successful prosecution was around £50,000 and that HMRC believed it was preferable to recoup wages for workers through civil penalty powers. In 2013-14, HMRC conducted 1,455 investigations and issued 652 financial penalties.

But the shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, said that the coalition was not taking the action needed to enforce the minimum wage. Failing to pay the minimum wage was made a criminal offence in 2007. Under Labour, seven organisations were prosecuted, including Torbay council.

Ummuna said:

“The national minimum wage is one of Labour’s proudest achievements in government and it has made a huge contribution to making work pay, boosting living standards and tackling in-work poverty.

“It is clear that the Tory-led government is not going to take the action needed to properly enforce the minimum wage – so that is why Labour is clear that we need to see higher penalties for rogue companies who don’t pay employees the minimum wage and far more effective enforcement, including by giving local authorities new powers.“

An HMRC spokesman said that the number of staff enforcing the minimum wage now stood at 194 – 40 more than in 2009-10. He said:

“Paying less than the minimum wage is illegal and, as HMRC’s record shows, if employers break the law they will face tough consequences. We conducted 1,455 investigations in 2013-14, securing over £4.6m in wage arrears for over 22,000 workers.

“The vast majority of national minimum wage cases are dealt with using civil penalty powers, as this route is usually the most appropriate, ensures workers receive the wages they’re due, and provides the most cost-effective resolution for taxpayers. However, in more severe cases, HMRC will take criminal action and seek a prosecution.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  22 Nov 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/firms-flouting-minimum-wage-not-prosecuted-past-year/

North East must accept Metro Mayor to get new powers says Osborne

The region must accept a single directly-elected mayor ruling from Durham to Scotland in order to grab dramatic new powers, George Osborne said yesterday.

The Chancellor signed a landmark devolution deal with Greater Manchester – covering transport, health, housing and the police – in return for a ‘metro mayor’, to run its ten authorities.

And he immediately warned that any city-region hoping for similar control over its own destiny must also accept a cross-border ‘Boris Johnson-style’ leader.

That list includes the new the North East Combined Authority, which brings together County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

The area is believed to be third on Mr Osborne’s list for agreeing devolution deals – after Manchester and West Yorkshire – with an announcement as early as next month.

But, last night, Simon Henig, Durham’s leader and the chairman of the combined authority, criticised Mr Osborne’ attempt to tie the region’s hands.

And he pointed out voters in Newcastle and eight other English cities had rejected mayors – for city boundaries only – in referendums just two-and-a-half years ago.

Councillor Henig said:

“I strongly believe it is now the time for powers and control over spending to be devolved out of Whitehall throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not just to Manchester.

“However, my own view is that devolution should not be made conditional on accepting an elected mayor, which was rejected by the public in referendums in several major cities in 2012.”

The Chancellor’s move is a dramatic U-turn, because the Conservatives had rejected calls for metro mayors which, many argued, could be handed a powerful portfolio.

Yesterday, Mr Osborne said:
I hope that Manchester will be the first of many big cities to take advantage of greater devolution of powers.

“Any other city that wants to receive more powers and move to a new model of governance, with an elected mayor, should bring forward their proposals.”

The Manchester package includes:

* Responsibility for re-regulated bus services and integrated ‘smart ticketing’ across all local modes of transport.

* An enhanced ‘earn back’ deal – keeping £1m a year from economic growth, to fund an extension to the Metrolink tram network.

* Police powers – with the abolition of the elected police and crime commissioner (PCC).

* Control of a £300 million ‘housing investment fund’.

* Power over business support services – including manufacturing advice and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) export advice.

* Power to develop a plan to integrate health and social care.

A Government source said:

Who do the voters sack if something goes wrong? City-region mayors answer that.

“So we can obviously go further for cities that are able to step up to the accountability challenge.”

Source – Northern Echo,  04 Nov 2014

TransPennine Express loses trains to ‘David Cameron’s stomping ground’

Passengers who use an already packed rail service which operates in the North East could face further overcrowding.

From next April, First TransPennine Express is set to lose nine of its 70 trains to Chiltern Railways in Oxfordshire, after it struck a train leasing deal with the company that owns them.

This week, Alistair Gordon, the UK boss of Keolis,  which owns a 45% stake in First TransPennine Express, said its line connecting Newcastle with Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool was so busy he recently saw a woman faint on board a train.

Mr Gordon reportedly commented: “Try getting on a train . . . and some days you just can’t.”

He said the problem was a chronic shortage of trains and that the company could not find extra carriages for its diesel services. “There is not enough rolling stock in this country,” he said.

Government figures show the franchise is one of the most overcrowded in the country after doubling its passenger numbers in a decade from 13.5m to 26m. Now it facing up to increasing passenger numbers with less trains.

First TransPennine Express leased the nine Class 170s from Porterbrook, a rolling stock operating company, for the duration of its franchise which has been extended for a year until 2016. Chiltern was able to offer a longer term leasing deal.

A spokesman claimed, although a solution has yet to be found for the problem, it would not affect its service in to the North East where it uses Class 185 rolling stock.

He denied suggestions some might be diverted to cope with the loss of the nine Class 170 carriages

Customers in the North East will see no change in terms of capacity and timetabling,” he said.

The spokesman said they were lobbying the Department for Transport to help find a solution.

It was only in May this year that ten new four-coach electric trains – costing £6 million each – started work on its route between Manchester, the North East and Scotland.

They offered 90,000 extra seats every week on all their North of England services, running one train every hour during the day between Manchester and Scotland and five trains every hour between Leeds and Manchester.

What we’re saying to the DfT is we need to protect the capacity we have put in place,” said the spokesman.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT rail union, said:

“It is a shocking indictment of both this Government’s policies and two decades of privatisation that one of the most crowded franchises on the rail system is losing a large chunk of its fleet to routes around the stomping ground of David Cameron and his cronies.

“The internal rolling stock merry-go-round is robbing trains from the North to aid the South while the clapped-out, lashed-up Pacers are also being kept on as part of the new Northern and TPE franchise.

“What a disgraceful way to treat passengers who are paying through the nose to ride these highly-profitable services.

“With the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line being bulldozed through, despite the success of the public operation that has delivered a billion pounds back to the taxpayer, this madness is set to not only continue but to worsen.”

Meanwhile David Sidebottom, Director of Passenger Focus, an independent rail passenger watchdog, said:

Getting a seat, or even sometimes getting on a train, can be a struggle for some passengers as overcrowding on the railways grows. It is a particular problem with First TransPennine with just 55% of FTPE passengers telling us that they are satisfied with the availability of seats or space to stand, and this is getting worse.

“Passengers need to see more seats on TransPennine and other trains. And they will want to know when this issue will be resolved.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal. 14 Oct 2014