The Necessity of Railway in Britain

Britain still has the 17th largest railway network in the world.

It is one of the busiest railways in Europe, according to Network Rail, with 20% more train services than France, 60% more than Italy, and more than Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Portugal and Norway combined.

In 2016, Government figures suggested there were 1.718 billion journeys on the National Rail network, making the British network the fifth most used in the world

British rail passenger numbers are reaching their highest ever level. Passenger journeys have grown much more quickly than in France and Germany.[Source: GB rail: dataset on financial and operational performance 1997-98 – 2012-13″]

Upgrades to the network, include Thameslink, Crossrail, electrification of lines, in-cab signalling, new inter-city trains and a new high-speed line.

The railway system in Britain is the oldest in the world. Wagonways were built in Britain in the 1560s across the country. The first locomotive-hauled public railway opened in 1825.

Most of the railway track is managed by Network Rail, which in 2016 had a network of 15,799 kilometres (9,817 miles) of standard-gauge lines, of which 5,331 kilometres (3,313 miles) were electrified.

A few cities have transit systems and Underground.

The British railway network is connected with that of continental Europe by an undersea rail link, the Channel Tunnel, opened in 1994.

The system was later built as patchwork of local lines operated by small private railway companies. Over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries, these amalgamated or were bought by competitors until only a handful of private monopolies remained.

The entire network was brought under government control during the First World War. Successive governments resisted calls for the nationalisation of the network (first proposed by 19th century Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone as early as the 1830s). Instead, from 1 January 1923, almost all the remaining companies were grouped into the “big four”: the Great Western Railway, the London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway companies (there were also a number of other joint railways such as the Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway and the Cheshire Lines Committee as well as special joint railways such as the Forth Bridge Railway, Ryde Pier Railway and at one time the East London Railway). The “Big Four” were joint-stock public companies and they continued to run the railway system until 31 December 1947.

The growth in road transport during the 1920s and 1930s increased competition for the rail companies.Governments supported private road haulage companies and state sector haulage intended for privatisation, through the subsidised construction of roads. The railways entered a period of decline owing to a lack of investment. During the Second World War the companies’ managements joined together, effectively forming one company. A maintenance backlog, poor investment in track and railstock occurred during thjs period. After 1945, the government decided to bring contol over the rail service by the state.

Nationalisation

1948 – 1994

From the start of 1948, the “big four” were nationalised to form British Railways (becoming “British Rail”) under the control of the British Transport Commission.

It was divided into six, then five, regional authorities.

Regeneration of track and railway stations was completed by 1954. In the same year, changes to the British Transport Commission, including the privatisation of road haulage, ended the coordination of transport in Britain. The mid-1950s saw the rapid introduction of diesel and electric rolling stock. This was period of rapid growth in the car industry and growth of the road network in competition

Capitalist demand for profitability led to a major reduction in the network during the mid-1960s, with business man, Dr. Richard Beeching, commissioned by the government under Ernest Marples with reorganising the railways.

Many branch lines (and a number of main lines) were closed because they were deemed uneconomic (“the Beeching Axe” of 1963), removing much feeder traffic from main line passenger services. In the second Beeching report of 1965, only the major trunk routes were selected for investment.

The 1980s saw severe cuts in government funding and above-inflation increases in fares. The five geographical Regions were replaced by a Sectored organisation, in which passenger services were organised into InterCity, Network SouthEast and Regional Railways sectors.

Privatisation

British Rail operations were privatised during 1994–1997. Ownership of the track and infrastructure passed to Railtrack, whilst passenger operations were franchised to individual private sector operators (originally there were 25 franchises) and the goods services sold outright (six companies were set up, but five of these were sold to the same buyer).

Rail subsidy per passenger journey for the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain Rail subsidies have increased from £2.5bn in 1992-93 to £3.3bn in 2015-16. [BBC News. 22 January 2013].

At the end of September 2003, the first part of High Speed 1, a high-speed link to the Channel Tunnel and onward to France and Belgium. The rest of the link, from north Kent to St Pancras railway station in London, opened in 2007. A major programme of remedial work on the West Coast Main Line started in 1997 and finished in 2009.

Upgrades under way: The Thameslink Programme, Crossrail, the Northern Hub and electrification of the Great Western Main Line. Planning for High Speed 2 is underway, with a projected completion date of 2026 for Phase 1 (London to Birmingham) and 2033 for Phase 2. An East Midlands Trains Class 222 Meridian on a London to Nottingham service. These trains are used for InterCity services from London to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire.There is intended to be a service from London Stansted Airport to Birmingham New Street

Passenger services in Great Britain are divided into regional franchises and run by private train operating companies. These companies bid for seven- to eight-year contracts to run individual franchises. Most contracts are awarded by the Department for Transport (DfT), with the exception of Merseyrail, where the franchise is awarded by Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive, and ScotRail, where the DfT awards on the advice of the Scottish Government.

Initially, there were 25 franchises, but the number of different operating companies is smaller as some firms, including FirstGroup and Stagecoach Group, run more than one franchise. In addition, some franchises have since been combined. There are also a number of local or specialised rail services operated on an ‘open access’ basis outside the franchise arrangements. Examples include Heathrow Express and Hull Trains.

In the 2015–16 operating year, franchised services provided 1,718 million journeys totalling (64.7 billion billion passenger km) of travel, an increase over 1994–5 of 117% in journeys (from 761 million) and just over doubling the passenger miles.

The key index used to assess passenger train performance is the Public Performance Measure, which combines figures for punctuality and reliability. From a base of 90% of trains arriving on time in 1998, the measure dipped to 75% in mid-2001. In June 2015 the PPM stood at 91.2% after a period of steady increases in the annual moving average since 2003 until around 2012 when the improvements levelled off.[ Source: “Performance and punctuality (PPM) – Network Rail”.]

Train fares cost 2.7% more than under British Rail in real terms on average.[BBC] For some years, Britain has been said to have the highest rail fares in Europe, with peak-time and season tickets considerably higher than other countries, partly because rail subsidies in Europe are higher.

British railway ticket machines (computerised)

Annual passenger numbers

Stevenage railway station along the East Coast Main Line.

Largs railway station with a Class 380 run by Abellio ScotRail a subsidiary of Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Below are the total number of passengers using heavy rail transport in Britain. The numbers are calculated from September to August. (This table does not include Eurostar, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect or “open access operators” such as Grand Central and Hull Trains)

2004–2005            902,695,324

2005–2006            800,669,217            Increase2.47%

2006–2007            958,095,205            Increase19.66

2007–2008            1,024,602,056            Increase6.94

2008–2009            1,073,753,933            Increase4.80

2009–2010            1,065,386,249            Decrease0.78

2010–2011            1,156,896,521            Increase8.59

2011–2012            1,227,960,111            Increase6.14

2012–2013            1,268,979,546            Increase3.34

2013-2014            1,332,561,756            Increase5.00

2014-2015            1,392,535,310            Increase4.50

2015-2016            1,463,777,211            Increase5.12

[The table is according to the Office of Rail and Road ]

Railway stations

There are 2,563 passenger railway stations on the Network Rail network. This does not include the London Underground, nor other systems which are not part of the national network, such as heritage railways. Most date from the Victorian era and a number are in or on the edge of town and city centres. Major stations lie for the most part in large cities, with the largest conurbations (e.g. Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester) typically having more than one main station. London is a major hub of the network, with 12 main-line termini forming a “ring” around central London. Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol and Reading are major interchanges for many cross-country journeys that do not involve London. However, some important railway junction stations lie in smaller cities and towns, for example York, Crewe and Ely. Some other places expanded into towns and cities because of the railway network. Swindon, for example, was little more than a village before the Great Western Railway chose to site its locomotive works there. In many instances geography, politics or military considerations[citation needed] originally caused stations to be sited further from the towns they served until, with time, these issues could be overcome (for example, Portsmouth had its original station at Gosport).

[Source: Wiki]

High-speed rail in Britain

High-speed rail (above 124 mph or 200 km/h) was first introduced in Britain in the 1970s by British Rail. BR had pursued two development projects in parallel, the development of a tilting train technology, the ‘Advanced Passenger Train’ (APT), and development of a conventional high-speed diesel train, the ‘High Speed Train’ (HST). The APT project was abandoned, but the HST design entered service.

The prototype HST, the British Rail Class 252, reached speeds of 143.2 mph, while the main fleet entered service limited to a service speed of 125 mph, and were introduced progressively on main lines across the country, with a rebranding of their services as the InterCity 125.

Class 390 Pendolino fleet designed for 140 mph maximum speed of service were still built and entered service in 2002, but operation limited to 125 mph.

The first implementation of high-speed rail up to 186 mph in regular passenger service in Britain was the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (High Speed 1), when its first phase opened in 2003 linking the British end of the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone with Fawkham Junction in Kent. This is used by international only passenger trains for the Eurostar service, using British Rail Class 373 trains. The line was later extended all the way into London St Pancras in 2007.

After the building of the first of a new British Rail Class 395 train fleet for use partly on High Speed 1 and parts of the rest of the UK rail network, the first domestic high-speed running over 125 mph (to about 140 mph) began in December 2009. These services are operated by the Southeastern franchise.

For replacement of the domestic fleet of Intercity 125 and 225 trains on the existing national network, the Intercity Express Programme was announced. In 2009 it was announced the preferred rolling stock option for this project was the Hitachi Super Express family of multiple units, and they are expected to enter service from 2017 on the Great Western Main Line and 2018 on the East Coast Main Line. The trains will be capable of a maximum speed of 140 mph with “minor modifications”, with the necessary signalling modifications required of the Network Rail infrastructure in Britain likely to come from the phased roll out of the Europe-wide European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

High Speed 2

Following several studies and consultations on high-speed rail, in 2009 the UK Government formally announced the High Speed 2 project. This study began on the assumption the route would be a new purpose-built high-speed line, from London to the West Midlands, via London Heathrow, relieving traffic on the West Coast Main Line, and would use conventional high-speed rail technology as opposed to Maglev. The rolling stock would be capable of travelling on the existing Network Rail infrastructure if required, and the route will intersect with the existing West Coast Main Line (WCML). A second phase of the project is planned to reach further north to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, as well as linking into the WCML, the Midland Main Line and the East Coast Main Line.

High Speed 3

In June 2014, Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne proposed a high-speed rail link High Speed 3 (HS3) between Liverpool and Newcastle/Sheffield/Hull. The line would utilise the existing route between Liverpool and Newcastle/Hull and a new route from to Sheffield will follow the same route to Manchester Victoria and then a new line from Victoria to Sheffield, with additional tunnels and other infrastructure.

High-speed rolling stock

In August 2009 the speeds of the fastest trains operating in Great Britain capable of a top speed of over 125 mph were as follows:

Name Locomotive class Type Max. recorded speed (mph (km/h)) Max. design speed (mph (km/h)) Max. speed in service (mph (km/h))
Eurostar, e320 374 EMU 219 (352) 200 (320) N/A
Eurostar, e300 373 EMU 209 (334.7) 186 (300) 186 (300)
Javelin 395 EMU 157 (252)[21] 140 (225) 140 (225)
InterCity 225 91 Electric Loco 162 (261) 140 (225) 125 (200)
Pendolino 390 EMU 162 (261)[22] 140 (225) 125 (200)
InterCity 125 43 (HST) Diesel Loco 148 (~240) 125 (200) 125 (200)
Adelante 180 DMU 125 (200) 125 (200) 125 (200)
Voyager 220 DEMU 125 (200) 125 (200) 125 (200)
Super Voyager 221 DEMU 125 (200) 125 (200) 125 (200)
Meridian/Pioneer 222 DEMU 125 (200) 125 (200) 125 (200)
Class 67 67 Diesel Loco 125 (200) 125 (200) 125 (200)

In 2011 the fastest timetabled start-to-stop run by a UK domestic train service was the Hull Trains 07.30

Rapid transit

A number of towns and cities have rapid transit systems. Heavy rail underground technology is used in the London and Glasgow Underground systems while the Merseyrail system in Liverpool shares some characteristics. Light rail with some underground sections exist in Newcastle upon Tyne on the Tyne and Wear Metro and in the London Docklands. The light rail systems in Nottingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Croydon, Birmingham/Black Country and Edinburgh use a combination of street running tramways and, where available, reserved right of way or former conventional rail lines in some suburbs.

Freight

Million tonnes of rail freight moved in the UK from 1983 to 2017.

There are four main goods operating companies in the UK, the largest of which is DB Cargo UK (formerly DB Schenker formerly English Welsh & Scottish (EWS)). There are also several smaller independent operators including Mendip Rail. Types of freight carried include intermodal — in essence containerised freight — and coal, metals, oil, and construction material.

Freight services had been in steady decline since the 1930s. Since 1995, however, the amount of freight carried on the railways has increased sharply. The Department for Transport’s Transport Ten Year Plan calls for an 80% increase in rail freight measured from a 2000–1 base.[ “The Government’s Ten Year Transport Plan” (PDF). http://www.devon.gov.uk.

Statistics on freight are specified in terms of the weight of freight lifted, and the net tonne kilometre, being freight weight multiplied by distance carried. 116.6 million tonnes of freight was lifted in the 2013–4 period, against 138 million tonnes in 1986–7, a decrease of 16%.[2013-14 Quarter 4 Statistical Release – Freight Rail Usage (PDF). Office of Rail Regulation. 22 May 2014.] However, a record 22.7 billion net tonne kilometres (14 billion net ton miles) of freight movement were recorded in 2013-4, against 16.6 billion (10.1 billion) in 1986–7, an increase of 38%.[2013-14 Quarter 4 Statistical Release – Freight Rail Usage (PDF). Office of Rail Regulation. 22 May 2014.] Coal makes up 36% of the total net tonne kilometre, though its share is declining.[ “Rail trends factsheet, Great Britain: 2014 – Publications – GOV.UK”] Rail freight has increased its market share (by net tonne kilometres) from 7.4% in 1998 to 11.1% in 2013.[ “Display Report”. Office of Rail and Road – National Rail Trends Portal.] Recent growth is partly due to more international services including the Channel Tunnel and Port of Felixstowe, which is containerised.

A loss to the rail freight industry in Britain was the custom of the Royal Mail, which from 2004 discontinued use of its 49-train fleet, and switching to road haulage after a near 170-year-preference for trains. Mail trains had long been part of the tradition of the railways in Britain, Although Royal Mail suspended the Mail train in January 2004, this decision was reversed in December of the same year, and Class 325s are now used on some routes including between London, Warrington and Scotland.

Train leasing services

At the time of privatisation, the rolling stock of British Rail was sold to the new operators, as in the case of the freight companies, or to the three ROSCOs (rolling stock operating companies) which lease or hire stock to passenger and freight train operators. Unlike other major players in the privatised railway system of Britain, the ROSCOs are not subject to close regulation by the economic regulatory authority. Since privatisation in 1995, the ROSCOs have faced criticism. They are acting as an oligopoly to keep lease prices high.

In July 2004, the Department for Transport’s White Paper on the future of the railways contained a statement it was dissatisfied with the operation of the rolling stock leasing market and believed there may have been excessive pricing on the part of the ROSCOs.

Three companies took over British Rail’s rolling stock on privatisation:

Angel Trains – owned by a consortium of private equity investors, mainly comprising pension funds and insurance companies, and has 4,400 vehicles in the UK.

Eversholt Rail Group – owns a fleet of over 4,000 vehicles and is owned by a consortium including 3i Infrastructure and Morgan Stanley.

Porterbrook – leases some 3,500 locomotives, trains and freight wagons; owned by a consortium including Deutsche Bank, Lloyds TSB (who withdrew in October 2010) and BNP Paribas.

A number of other companies have since entered the leasing market:

Sovereign Trains – a company that forms part of the same group as the open-access operator Grand Central. Sovereign Trains owns the rolling stock operated by Grand Central.

QW Rail Leasing – a joint venture between the National Australia Bank and SMBC Leasing and Finance to provide the EMU rolling stock to London Overground.

Diesel Trains – in March 2009, the Department for Transport also launched its own ROSCO to order 202 new diesel train carriages for the Thames Valley area, around Bristol and on longer distances in northern England. The trains were due to enter service by 2012 for train operators First Great Western, First TransPennine Express and Northern Rail. However, in August 2009 the order was cancelled due to the planned electrification of the Great Western Main Line and Diesel Trains was later dissolved in July 2012.

Lloyds TSB General Leasing – in April 2009, Lloyds TSB entered the rolling stock market by funding the purchase of 30 new EMU trains for National Express East Anglia.

Beacon Rail Leasing,[39] owns Class 68 and Class 88 locomotives, as well as Class 220 and Class 221 DMUs.[40]

UK Rail Leasing, owns some Class 56 locomotives

[show] v t e

British Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs)

Spot-hire companies provide short-term leasing of rolling stock.

MiddlePeak Railways, a locomotive hire & lease company with a stock of locomotives similar to Class 08 & NS 0-6-0 600 Class shunting locomotives, other locomotives, rolling stock & parts. GL Railease owned by GATX Capital, and Lombard, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Harry Needle Railroad Company Ltd, an industrial and main line locomotive hire and overhaul company. Operates Class 08 shunting locomotives, and Class 20 locomotives. Riviera Trains, a spot-hire company with a fleet of Class 47 locomotives. This company works closely with DB Cargo UK. West Coast Railway Company, a spot-hire and railtour-operator with a stock of Class 37 and Class 47 locomotives, as well as the rebuild Class 57 locomotive.

Railways in Great Britain are in the private sector, but they are subject to control by central government, and to economic and safety regulation the State.

In 2006, using powers in the Railways Act 2005, the Department for Transport took over most of the functions of the now wound up Strategic Rail Authority. The DfT awards passenger rail franchises, and, once awarded, monitors and enforces the contracts with the private sector franchisees. Franchises specify the passenger rail services which are to be run and the quality and other conditions (for example, the cleanliness of trains, station facilities and opening hours, the punctuality and reliability of trains). Some franchises receive a subsidy from the DfT for doing so, and some are cash-positive, which means the franchisee pays the DfT for the contract.

The other regulatory authority for the privatised railway is the Office of Rail and Road (previously the Office of Rail Regulation), which, following the Railways Act 2005, is the combined economic and safety regulator. It replaced the Rail Regulator on 5 July 2004. The Rail Safety and Standards Board still exists, however; established in 2003 on the recommendations of a public inquiry, it leads the industry’s progress in health and safety matters.

The principal modern railway statutes are:

  • Railways Act 1993
  • Competition Act 1998 (insofar as it confers competition powers on the Office of Rail and Road)
  • Transport Act 2000
  • Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003
  • Railways Act 2005

Railway industry

  • Statutory authorities
  • Office of Rail and Road
  • Department for Transport

Notified Bodies

  1. Rail network and signalling operations
  2. Railtrack (1996–2002)
  3. Network Rail (2002–) – (A “not for dividend” company limited by guarantee)

Other national entities

Association of Train Operating Companies – ATOC

Institution of Railway Operators

Rail Freight Group

Rail Passengers Council and Committees

Rail Safety and Standards Board – RSSB

The Railway Forum

Railway Mission

Railway Study Association

Passenger operators in Britain

Current passenger operators

The following operate the National Rail network.

Operator Type Franchise Parent(s) Passenger satisfaction[1] Start date Expiry date Replaced
Abellio ScotRail Franchise ScotRail Abellio 87% 1 April 2015 31 March 2025 First ScotRail
Arriva Rail London TfL concession London Overground Arriva UK Trains 13 November 2016[2][3][4] 26 May 2024 London Overground Rail Operations
Arriva Trains Wales Franchise Wales & Borders Arriva UK Trains 82% 8 December 2003 13 October 2018[5] Wales & Borders
c2c Franchise Essex Thameside Trenitalia 81% 26 May 1996 10 November 2029 Network SouthEast
(London, Tilbury & Southend Division)
Caledonian Sleeper Franchise Caledonian Sleeper Serco 31 March 2015 31 March 2030 First ScotRail
Chiltern Railways Franchise Chiltern Railways Arriva UK Trains 91% 21 July 1996 21 December 2021[5] Network SouthEast(Chiltern Division)
CrossCountry Franchise New CrossCountry Arriva UK Trains 86% 11 November 2007 December 2019[6] Central Trains(Birmingham – Stansted & Cardiff – Nottingham route)
Virgin CrossCountry
East Midlands Trains Franchise East Midlands Stagecoach 86% 11 November 2007 August 2019[6] Central Trains(Liverpool – Norwich & East Midlands routes)
Midland Mainline
Eurostar Open access Eurostar International Limited 14 November 1994  
Grand Central[7] Open access Arriva UK Trains 96% 18 December 2007 December 2026[8]  
Greater Anglia Franchise East Anglia Abellio(60%)
Mitsui(40%)
77% 16 October 2016[9] October 2025[6] National Express East Anglia
Great Western Railway Franchise Greater Western FirstGroup 84% 1 April 2006 April 2020[6] First Great Western
First Great Western Link
Wessex Trains
Heathrow Connect Open access Heathrow Airport Holdings
FirstGroup
83% 12 June 2005 May 2018[10]  
Heathrow Express Open access Heathrow Airport Holdings 91% 23 June 1998  
Hull Trains Open access FirstGroup 94% 25 September 2002 December 2029[11]  
Merseyrail Merseytravelcontract Merseyrail Serco-Abellio 90% 20 July 2003 19 July 2028[5] Arriva Trains Merseyside
Northern Franchise Northern Arriva UK Trains 82% 1 April 2016 31 March 2025[12] Northern Rail
Southeastern Franchise Integrated Kent Govia 69% 1 April 2006 December 2018[6] South Eastern Trains
Southern / Thameslink and Great Northern Franchise Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern Govia 69% 14 September 2014 September 2021[6] First Capital ConnectSouthern
South Western Railway Franchise South Western FirstGroup(70%)
MTR Corporation(30%)
20 August 2017 18 August 2024[6] South West Trains
TfL Rail TfL concession Crossrail MTR Corporation 79% 31 May 2015 30 May 2023 Greater Anglia(Liverpool Street – Shenfield)
TransPennine Express Franchise TransPennine Express FirstGroup 87% 1 April 2016 31 March 2023[6] First TransPennine Express
Virgin Trains East Coast Franchise InterCity East Coast Stagecoach(90%)
Virgin Group(10%)
88% 1 March 2015 31 March 2020[13][14]
(originally 31 March 2023[15])
East Coast
Virgin Trains West Coast Franchise InterCity West Coast Virgin Rail Group 92% 9 March 1997 April 2019[16] InterCity(West Coast Division)
West Midlands Trains Franchise West Midlands Abellio(70%)
JR East(15%)
Mitsui(15%)
  10    

Regional entities

  • Transport for West Midlands)
  • TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester)
  • Merseytravel
  • Metro (West Yorkshire Metro)
  • Nexus (Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive)
  • Travel South Yorkshire (South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive)
  • SPT (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport)
  • TfL (Transport for London)

Historic

Stockton and Darlington Railway (1825) – First steam-hauled passenger railway in the world.

Canterbury and Whitstable Railway (1830) – First steam-hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets.

Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1830) – First InterCity passenger railway.

Grand Junction Railway (1833) – The line built by the company was the first trunk railway to be completed in England, and arguably the world’s first long-distance railway with steam traction.

London and Greenwich Railway (1836) – First steam railway in the capital, the first to be built specifically for passengers, and the first elevated railway.

London and Birmingham Railway (1837) – First Intercity line to be built into London.

Midland Counties Railway (1839)

Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway (BDJR) (1839)

North Midland Railway (1840)

Taff Vale Railway (1840)

Workers’ Opposition

Trade unions

 

The railways are one of the most heavily unionised industrial sectors in Britain.

  • Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen – ASLEF
  • National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers – RMT
  • Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association – TSSA

 

RMT

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

 

Founded            1990 with 83,854 (2015) members.

Mick Cash, General Secretary

RMT is a British trade union covering the transport sector.

The RMT was the fastest growing trade unions under the leadership of Bob Crow, with membership increasing from 57,000 in 2002 to over 80,000 members in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies today.

The RMT was formed in 1990 through a merger of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and the National Union of Seamen (NUS) to create a single transport industry trade union.

The predecessor unions to the National Union of Railwaymen and the National Union of Seamen were founding members of the original Labour Representation Committee.

The RMT announced in 2009 that it would be standing a slate of candidates in the 2009 European Parliament elections under the banner of No to EU.

The RMT then became a founding member of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, a left wing political party which has contested the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

RMT is in favour of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union in the 2016 referendum on the subject.

In July 2015, the RMT endorsed Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in the Labour Party leadership election.

The RMT represents the majority of London Underground staff, as well as many other workers in the London public transport network. The RMT has had a number of disputes with Transport for London and private sector contractors Metronet and Tube Lines over pay, safety, pensions and job security on the Underground. These disputes have often resulted in industrial action, leading to periods of travel disruption in the capital over the last decade.

Affiliations

TUC, ICTU, STUC, ITF, WFTU TUCG, NSSN, TUSC

The RMT is affiliated to a number of political organisations and trade union confederations. In the United Kingdom and Ireland the RMT is affiliated with the TUC, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Wales Trades Union Congress and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Internationally the RMT is affiliated to the European Transport Workers Federation and the International Transport Workers Federation, as well as the World Federation of Trade Unions.

Politically the RMT is affiliated with the left wing political party the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, in which it co-founded and encourages members to participate. [“Rmt Conference Unanimously Votes To Continue Support For Tusc” Tusc.org.uk].The RMT is also affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee, a pressure group that aims to promote traditional socialist principles within the Labour Party. [“LRC Affiliates”. L-r-c.org.uk. Labour Representation Committee]. In 2014, the RMT joined the Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) campaign in support of the Communist Party of Ukraine and the Donbass People’s Militia against the EU and NATO-backed Ukrainian government. [“RMT union denounces Western support for Kiev – supports antifascist resistance – Solidarity with the Antifascist Resistance in Ukraine”. Ukraineantifascistsolidarity.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2016-02-06 for wiki]

RMT Transport Policy

Political

RMT has active parliamentary groups at Westminster, ihe Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. They work with the union to pursue a progressive transport and employment agenda in their respective legislatures based on the following principles:

·         Public ownership and public accountability of the rail network

·         Increased employment of UK seafarers

·         Opposition to the London Underground PPP

·         Repeal of anti-trade union legislation and the promotion of rights at work

 RMT supports many campaigning organisations in the UK. Support for these campaigns is integral to RMT’s wider vision of a society based on freedom, peace and social justice. Decisions on affiliations are made by the union’s annual general meeting and council of executives, who are fully accountable to the membership.

TRANSPORT
WORKERS’ RIGHTS
POLITICAL
WOMEN
PEACE
ANTI-RACISM
SOCIAL JUSTICE
MEDIA/LEARNING
OTHER

Source: RMT – https://www.rmt.org.uk/about/policies/uk-policy-campaigns/

It can be seen that the union has no political programme outlined as such and is mainly an economic defence organisation. It has some points that are political, though, such as privatisation and anti-trade union law. The commendable main political issue on its statute is Public ownership and accountability.

National Union of Railwaymen (NUR)

The NUR was founded in 1913 and was a trade union of railway workers before mergong to form RMT.

The NUR itself, was an industrial union founded in 1913 by the merger of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (founded 1872), the United Pointsmen and Signalmen’s Society (founded 1880) and the General Railway Workers’ Union (founded 1889).

The NUR represented the majority of railway workers, but not white-collar workers, who were members of the Railway Clerks’ Association (founded 1897, later the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association). NUR membership was open to drivers and firemen but most chose instead to be members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (founded 1880).

In 1914 the NUR joined forces with the National Transport Workers’ Federation and Mining Federation of Great Britain to form the Triple Alliance,

In 1919 the NUR and ASLEF jointly organised the 1919 United Kingdom railway strike, which prevented a proposed wage reduction and won an eight-hour maximum working day.

The NUR had 408,900 members in 1945, making it the fifth largest union in Britain. Its membership fell to 369,400 in 1956 and 227,800 in 1966.

In 1990 the NUR merged with the National Union of Seamen to form the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and ceased to exist as a separate union.

Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF)

ASLEF was founded 1880 and   has 21,191 (2015) members. It is affiliated to the TUC, STUC, Wales TUC, ITF and the Labour Party. Mick Whelan is the General Secretary ASLEF is a British trade union representing train drivers. It is part of the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the European Transport Workers’ Federation.

In 1865, North Eastern Railway footplatemen founded a union called the Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Society.

In 1872, an industrial union, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, was founded reported having 17,247 members, but by 1882, this had declined to 6,321.

By the end of the 1870s, many UK railway companies had increased the working week from 60 to 66 hours, a 12-hour working day was common and wages had been reduced. The Great Western Railway had not increased wages since 1867, had increased the working day from 10 to 12 hours in 1878 and then reduced wages for all but the most junior drivers and firemen in 1879. In 1879, almost 2,000 GWR locomotive drivers and firemen signed an ASRS petition to the GWR Board of Directors requesting a restoration of the 1867 conditions of service and rates of pay. The GWR reacted by refusing to meet the ASRS representatives and dismissing several of the petitioners from their jobs. (Repoted by Raines 1921 and McKillop 1950)

As a result of this defeat, in 1879, drivers and firemen from Griffithstown, Pontypool, South Wales, started to organise to form a craft union separate from the ASRS. At the time there were similar moves in parts of England towards founding an enginemen’s union. A large number of drivers and firemen met in Birmingham met on 9 December 1879 and resolved to form a National Society of Drivers and Firemen. There was a similar move by Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway drivers and firemen at Sheffield, whom the Pontypool group called “the first founders of the Society”. The Sheffield branch opened on 7 February 1880 with William Ullyott, one of its leaders, as the first member. Pontypool branch followed on 15 February, led by Charles H. Perry,   one of the drivers who had unsuccessfully petitioned the GWR board the previous year. ASLEF officially records Perry as its founder. In the remainder of 1880 ASLEF opened branches at Tondu, Liverpool and Leeds (April), Neath (May), Bradford (June), and Carnforth (July).

In August 1911, the ASRS, ASLEF, the United Pointsmen’s and Signalmen’s Society (founded 1880) and the General Railway Workers’ Union (founded 1889) jointly called the United Kingdom’s first national rail strike.

In 1913, the ASRS, GRWU and UPSS duly merged to form the National Union of Railwaymen.

During the First World War the cost of living increased rapidly. From July 1914 to September 1915, for example, food prices rose 37%. For the duration of the War, the government was in control of the railways. Wages were increased, but at a slower rate than the rise in the cost of living. NUR and ASLEF responded jointly, and forced the Board of Trade to award wage increases in September 1916 and April 1917. In March 1919, the coalition government indicated that it intended to review the War Wage, with a view to reducing it at the end of the year. The NUR and ASLEF started a second national railway strike in September 1919,] which in nine days won both a change in pay policy and the reduction of the working day to eight hours.

( Raines 1921 and McKillop 1950)

After 1919, control of the railways was returned to the companies, and in 1923, the Railways Act 1921 merged about 120 of Great Britain’s railways into four large regional companies. In December 1923, the new companies presented proposals that included some reductions in locomotive men’s pay and conditions. Negotiations broke down and ASLEF ordered its members to strike.

ASLEF and the NUR were prominent participants in the 1926 general strike that sought to prevent British coal companies from reducing mineworkers’ pay and conditions.

In 1955, ASLEF struck against British Railways for seventeen days in a pay dispute. In 1982, both ASLEF and the NUR opposed BR proposals for flexible rostering.

There have also been local disputes with individual railway operators such as those with London Underground in 1982, 1989 and 1996.

[Rose 1986]

Membership

The record of membership numbers is not complete,

1881 – 651

1892 – 6,710

1901 – 10,502

1910 – 19,800

1913 – 32,200

1919 – 57,184

1939 – 53,325

1946 – 71,842

 

2011 – 18,500+

2014 – 20,364

2017 – 21,791

Necessity for change on the railways

The most significant development would be to transform the substance of the railways from a thing in itself into a thing for us. The essence of the necessity at present is transport that serves capital and not labour. It reveals the ensemble of human relations involved in its maintenance and its usage. It must become a pro-social product of society that is a service for the people.

The first aspect of the political agenda involves organisation of the Workers’ Opposition to assert Public ownersip and Control. It must achieve this aim by guaranteeing Public Right over Monopoly Right. Therefore not only opposition to privatisation but all railway assets and functions switching to full Public ownership and control.

Public transport is a Right. It is a requirement for freedom of movement of human beings and a material and cultural need. In essence Public transport supports the social economy, essential services, effective distribution of the social product. In reality it would best serve society if it was free at the point of use so that there is little or no claim on workers’ wages through fares, adding also to the price of delivering goods. In this way the claims against any new value added to the social product would not go elsewhere but where it belongs, into the pockets of those workers who produce the wealth.

 

 

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Passing of Dr Ed Gouge:

‘A life well lived’: Loss of much-loved political campaigner

https://onthewight.com/ed-gouge-a-life-well-lived-loss-of-well-liked-political-campaigner/

It was incredibly sad to hear earlier this week of the passing of Dr Ed Gouge, a Ventnor Town Councillor, IW Labour Party Secretary and election agent, as well as a friend to many.

 

ed gouge with julian critchley, stewart black more and will matthews

Tributes following the sudden passing of Dr Ed Gouge (pictured right), Ventnor Town Councillor and Secretary and election agent for the Isle of Wight Labour Party, have been pouring onto social media.

Ed had been very ill in recent weeks, but passed away completely unexpectedly on Tuesday evening due to a stroke.

Passionate about politics
The well-loved and much-admired former university lecturer was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He previously ran the Parliamentary Studies degree at the University of Leeds and was an adviser for University Study Portal, BritPolitics.

For many years Ed also worked with the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Ken Livingstone, Diane Abbott and others at the Greater London Council (GLC).

OnTheWight is told that he’d decided just last weekend to start writing an account of his time there.

“A life well lived”
In a card to Ed’s wife, Mary and son, Elliott, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, wrote,

“I send you my deepest sympathy and condolences. I was proud to serve with Ed on the GLC and privileged to count him as a friend and comrade.

“Ed was a fine, principled and dedicated socialist who made a major contribution to one of the most radical socialist local government administrations in Labour’s history.

“This laid the foundations for the present resurgence of socialist practice within the party today.

“Ed’s was a life well lived.”

Ed’s work has “helped millions of people”
Lorraine Hill-Scott, the Editor for BritPolitics, wrote

“Without Dr Ed Gouge, BRIT POLITICS would not be what it is today and we thank him wholeheartedly for his contribution.

“It is no exaggeration that Ed’s work has been viewed and helped millions of people not just in the UK but all over the world.

“We take a little comfort that in the years to come they will continue to be seen by millions more looking to learn and perhaps get passionate, like Ed was, about British politics.”

Ed “worked tirelessly to improve things”
Isle of Wight Labour Party member, Will Matthews, posted his tribute earlier in the week. He said,

“Yesterday I found out the dreadful news that Ed Gouge had passed away. I’d only visited him a few hours before in hospital, and I can honestly say he was one of the nicest guys I have ever met.

“For the last few years, he’s been Secretary of the Isle of Wight Labour Party, and it has been his life. He’s made me and so many others feel so welcome in the Labour Party, and has worked tirelessly to improve things over here. He has also done a lot for me personally, and it’s thanks to him that I’m as involved in politics as I am.

“For those who don’t know Ed, he lectured in politics at several high profile universities, and he was Chair of Planning on the Greater London Council. Always putting others before himself, he was a true hero to the Labour movement.

“My thoughts are with Mary, Elliott and the rest of his family. Rest in peace Ed, we’ll keep up the good fight.”

“A great loss”
Former council leader, David Pugh, said,

“Very sad news. I worked with Ed on the KILF campaign, and his input was always very valuable. A great loss.”

A friend 
Here at OnTheWight were were very saddened to hear the news. We considered Ed to be a friend, who we’d enjoyed many discussions about both local and national politics with.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Mary and Elliott, as well all those who knew Ed. His passing will be a great loss to many.

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Something Is Calling Now, Move On

Change, in the air,
Change everywhere,
Seasons change
Change repetition
In the life of an individual
In the society, terrestrial changes
All and more
Inconsequential
Thinking — the idea
The social change
The drastic and the moderate
The ones which would put human beings in the first place
Not one human being
Not a few human beings
Not a few chosen ones
All human beings without exception
Cared for
looked after
tender loving care
The greatest love by the society
A society that will
create its own kind of love
Not love a mystery
an unattainable dream
A social love
Permeating all and one
Gushing through their veins

There was a love
an individual love which came crashing through the
darkness of medieval times
Opening the floodgates of human freedom
Something is calling now, move on

Let the love have a source
Let the social love spread its wings
Let the total human personality be born
Something is calling now, move on,
Move on

Motion — life itself
Force of all matter
Taking its place in time
In space
Somewhere in there appears
The real countenance of what is and what can be
And there is always
The real face which sees
The human condition
Its expression
So much wanting
So much wanted
All and everything else just a trifle
Working fighting
Creating it
Constant
For several centuries
All over the globe and beyond
Clear has become, all too clear
History is to be made
With that quality
Negation of negation of negation
Not of two not of three
Not of you me she/he
Of zero of the past
For the sake of the present demanding guarantees of the future

Something is calling now, move on
Move on, move on
Let the path to progress open
Let the environment be humanised
Let the human being take hold
Something is calling now, move on
Move on, move on
It is said
There is a kind of sensation — a relief
Yearning
An indispensable need
Of you
He/she
I
From this vantage point
With keen grasp of the contours of the terrain
Of the essence of this conflict
The very kind
In history
History itself in the hands of the present
Stubbornly refusing to repeat itself
Transforming itself to something that has not been
Abstracting absence
without option
without hesitation
Like life itself
Real
impregnated with determination for ever
It is
and it is not
it can be seen
On the horizon
Like the writing on the wall
All colours and shades of good fortune
The dawn
The sun shall shine for all like you he/she and I

Something is calling now, move on
Move on, move on, move on
Let the march go on for the road is clear
Let the people arrive at their destination
Let the modern human being make history
Something is calling now, move on.

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The Here and the Now

[…]

In our theoretical work, we have fidelity to the ensemble of human relations and to what is being revealed by these indispensable relations, most importantly, the need for political power. We study the thing-in-itself and in its relations, as Lenin taught us to do. We pay attention to the objectivity of consideration and make sure we adhere to the method of dialectical and historical materialism.

In political work, the strategy and tactics for revolution are taken into account at all times. How one unites the people in action during a period of flow of revolution is very different from how one unites people in action during a period of retreat of revolution, as exists today. Under both circumstances, investigating the social forces favoured by the political work through mobilizing them for a definite aim is crucial.

In political work we follow the method of uniting the advanced forces to mobilize the middle and isolate the backward. We safeguard the unity of the people like the apple of our eye. We do everything in our power to uphold the dignity of the working class, end the marginalization of the people and their criminalization, and the criminalization of the human factor/social consciousness. Most importantly, we have the responsibility to lead the working class to constitute the nation and vest sovereignty in the people. We can only do so if we settle scores with the old conscience of society and learn to act in a new way which is consistent with the requirement of the times.

This Conference is not about the political aspect per se but will concentrate on the theoretical aspect. […]

Today, we all face unacceptable developments such as workers confronting the refusal of their employers to negotiate wages and conditions of work and to recognize what belongs to them by right, such as their pensions. The people are left to fend for themselves as a result of the smashing of the social contract whereby pensions are lost, security is unknown, compensation for injuries and illness is taken away, and individuals and families are abandoned to fend for themselves in a world they do not control, all sanctioned by governments and their courts and state agencies.

What kind of unity in diversity is it that criminalizes religions and political opinions which are not those of the ruling caste? What kind of governance is it that elevates unworthy elements to occupy ministries and social institutions for purposes of political expediency, and has destroyed all vestiges of the public authority with the exception of the police powers?

How many times do we hear ourselves say, “It is unthinkable,” when we consider the likes of a Donald Trump as President, or the devastation caused by the wars of aggression, occupation and regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria, Palestine and now also Venezuela, Brazil and other countries? What kind of civilization imposes brutal genocidal sanctions against smaller countries such as Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or anyone who does not toe the line of the U.S. imperialists and the international financial oligarchs who are vying for control of world markets and natural resources, access to cheap work forces, and who fight for spheres of influence and zones for export of the social wealth they have seized from what the working people produce?

Why do we feel the developments and the situation are “unthinkable”? How can they be “unthinkable” when it is precisely the ability to think and abstract absence that makes us human, that distinguishes us as a species from other members of the animal world?

Meanwhile, even as we face the difficulties associated with how to think about what is taking place and to sort out what’s what, we are constantly bombarded with the mantra that capitalism is the end all and be all of systems and that the way to confront the dangers humankind faces is to strengthen the police powers which capitalist liberal democracy engenders.

Among other things, this is done by blaming communism and resistance to oppression for disrupting what is best — the ideal way of life with its universal values. Theories of family values, family life, individual freedom and others are all in the service of this self-serving view that seeks to cultivate a feeling that this ideal life is what is desirable and the aim of living and to seek an alternative is futile.

To paralyze the people, a vision of socialism is advanced that is nothing other than the same ideal notion of a bourgeois lifestyle replete with the same aim, desire and motivation, which every worker and person in society should accept and dream about. An illusion is created that if only the distribution of wealth were fair, education free, health care free, pensions secure, the environment free from pollution and so on, everyone could attain this ideal lifestyle and live happily ever after.

The aim of this anti-communist dogma is to stop people from investigating what modern life should be and elaborating a line of march for change. The dogma deprives people of an outlook and a way of cognizing the human relations and general intelligence that exist independent of their will. How this is achieved is an unexamined key function of the state and its public authority. In depriving people of an outlook, blocking their insight, and negating their own vantage point, those who have usurped power by force deprive people of political power and create conditions for much greater tragedies, while insisting that the ruling elite and their system are the only solution.

The people face a serious situation. The public powers that are supposed to bring solutions to problems are behind the recurring crises and wars, which are becoming worse. Frederick Engels the great collaborator of Karl Marx points out, “Where class struggle and rivalry in conquest has brought the public power to a pitch, it threatens to devour the whole society and even the state itself.”

It is not just a matter that the state is big and bad but that the state is destroying itself, devouring itself without any alternative allowed. This situation is covered up by all sorts of theoretical speculations dogmatically presented as the best description of the world and its problems.

In sharp contrast, the Necessity for Change (NfC) analysis takes theory as insight, as a guide into what the relations and conditions are showing. The NfC analysis is a guide to the cognition of human relations and relations of humans with nature. It demands lifting the veil, ripping apart the imposed cover-up.

Why is lifting the veil on relations important? Most everyone knows what the general problems in the world are and talks endlessly about them: the threat of global war, nuclear holocaust, environmental degradation, mass impoverishment including famines, insecurity and all the abuses of the human condition we see daily on the newscasts. Crucially, so long as we just leave the general problems as being something that affects us all, we will never look at what generates this general human condition. How does the general human condition relate to and target people as individuals and members of collectives? What is the origin or source of the individuals and collectives, their social being?

Without taking up an outlook that allows for looking at the general, the ensemble of human relations, then the question of general interest, collective interest and individual interest cannot be sorted out, let alone how to harmonize the individual and collective interests with each other and the general interests of society. Without taking up an outlook that allows for looking at the general, the battle of democracy will not be brought to a conclusion that favours the people and their political empowerment and opens a path for society.

First put forward by Hardial Bains in 1967, the NfC analysis is a call to turn words into deeds. It sorts out the problem of how to gain political power. Without paying attention to this analysis, it is not possible to bring about the transformations the situation demands.

The world needs the massive human productive powers and modern human relations and general intelligence those productive powers create. Either the productive powers are liberated from the narrow confines of the old civil society or we will continue to have terrible destructive forces unleashed against us and the world, as we see happening today.

From the perspective of the Old, the attitude is to destroy the productive powers through crises and war. Karl Marx called them universal wars of mass destruction and famine. We see today whole nations and people facing obliteration.

From the perspective of the New, a way has to be found to look at the massive human productive forces and the human relations and general intelligence they create and channel them in the service of the interests of the people.

In this regard, the NfC analysis sorts out in practical terms the question of epistemology and philosophy, the relationship between consciousness and being. People do not want to hear how badly they are being attacked. They want to become involved to change the situation. As Marx said, the issue is not one of understanding the world, but of changing it. Hardial Bains brought forward the NfC analysis to settle scores with the old conscience of bourgeois society by making sure words and deeds are one. First comes the deed then the word.

The rejection of anti-consciousness entails becoming conscious of those relations entered into between humans and humans, and humans and nature.

By taking up the question of organization and the remoulding of our world outlook in practice through deeds, a connection is revealed between how to organize to bring in the New and our thinking, with how we view the actual situation and conditions, and what needs to be changed.

A dream and desire for an alternative to the social system and old relations as they exist becomes concretized for those who come forward to take up that dream and draw up plans of action. The plans for action take those who have come forward beyond their individual scattered actions, whether they are protest actions, strikes, or any other attempt to see justice done.

We have to go beyond individual scattered actions. We establish a plan for action, a program, and a coming together for action that emerges out of the actual general conditions. This allows for unity in action beyond any single action of the people who are presently engaged in struggles of various kinds. No matter how big or small the number of participants may be initially, those numbers can grow when the dream of the alternative is captured in organizational form and consciousness.

The consciousness develops from the initial dream and rejection of anti-consciousness and grows in quantity and quality. The consciousness provides coherence and becomes a material force among the people especially when it assumes an organizational form consistent with what the conditions demand.

Not to take up the Necessity for Change outlook but to accept the anti-conscious outlook leaves us like those describing an unfolding tragedy: a person drowning in a river complains loudly from the water about those describing the situation from the riverbank, “Here I am drowning and there you are describing my drowning and the condition of the water.”

“Society has all these problems; I have all of these problems drowning in a society with all these problems, and there you are describing the problems.”

This is usually heard as here I am with all the problems and there you are only describing them and not helping. The plea for help of the drowning person at that point is empty and the concern of those on shore is likewise useless because the cries of the drowning person are met with descriptions of the water and the process of drowning from those on shore.

The person drowning in the water and those on shore have reasons for their particular actions or so it is made to appear. The point is they are both indifferent to one another. Simply put, the laws of nature prevail in the situation without human consciousness. The problem is not two activities where one is drowning and the others are describing. No. The problem is no common space exists for the will to be to solve the problem, for the human factor/social consciousness to be activated. The person in the water and those on shore are detached and vanishing in relation to one another. There is no unity in action. There is no “I” in the here and now that acts to transcend this situation of desperation and change it.

What is needed is to overcome the prevailing relation of separation between word and deed. A relation of unity out of the destruction of the existing separation is necessary. A new relation must be created with the destruction of the old system. And that relation has to be infused with consciousness. That consciousness comes by rejecting anti-consciousness and thinking through the phenomenon, thinking through the brain, thinking through the experience. Not only thinking things through and considering what exists are necessary. The consideration has to have an objectivity; the consideration has to go through the phenomenon. “I” is the phenomenon with its act of conscious participation in the act of finding out; the here and now is also the phenomenon, which appears as a flash, as an instant like a wave and then vanishes.

This battle of democracy in bringing to completion the final struggle against everything Old, out-of-date and medieval, must deal with the fact that the system of governance now existing for civil society does not solve any of the problems. On the contrary, the system of governance negates the pressing need to look at what the New would entail.

The end to governance based on the rule of laws over persons and things must bring forward arguments for a system of self-governance, governance of the people by the people for the people; a human power over what Marx called a community of goods; a society with enlightenment fit for all of its members.

An Historical Framework


Hardial Bains addresses Necessity for Change Conference in London, England, August 1967.

Overall we are dealing with the problem of having an historical framework — what is going on now, why it is going on like this and what does it mean for the future — now and then.

The now, in front of us, is being in the present moment, being under the present circumstances inherited from the past. Now is also what directly follows from circumstances that exist in the present. Now is the conflict between past and present, from which our actual situation emerges directly.

Taking the NfC, its analysis, teachings, insights, now, we start with the fact that it was presented in the middle of the Cold War in 1967, precisely at the midpoint between the beginning of the Cold War of the post WWII period and the end of the Cold War when the former Soviet Union collapsed. We receive it today as a concept standing on its own, emerging out of the now of 1967. We receive it as a concept of the self-movement of history independent of anyone’s will today.

The NfC necessarily provides a way of looking at the history through which it moved. This self-movement of history corresponds to the whole of that history and reveals itself as a way to look at that history — with consistency, continuity and coherence. The only choice in 2017 is whether to take it up or ignore it. As with any product of history, there is no choice about whether it exists or not. Taking it up in essence is to take up the necessity of an historical framework of reference, a reference point, for that history.

Without taking up NfC, we will not be able to distinguish what is relevant and what is not, and we will not be able to determine the issue of fidelity, what we have fidelity to — a cause, an organization, or fidelity to the ensemble of human relations — and what they are revealing, independent of anyone’s will.

We are speaking to a way of looking at the world. As an image, consider the apocalypse we are constantly presented with, that as a result of global nuclear war or global climate change or global famine, the human species will come to an end. It is presented as we, the peoples, are all in a boat that is sinking fast. And we shout out to those on shore, those owners of capital in control, with authority, deciding the rules of the road, we shout out, here we are drowning and there you are describing the water. There can be a better or worse description, and we can shout louder, but the relation remains. We are a passive force, and things external to us, the you over there, decide what happens.

The egocentric I of the present, that rejects NfC and deals with things and phenomenon outside of the historical movement, has the inability, or refusal, to look at what the relations are. They see the here and there as separate, outside of time and space. They give a location, which is not time or space. What is between the here and the there? They see everything as a force external to them. They are a passive force; we are drowning and there is nothing we can do. Everything happens by external force, not the internal self-movement. There is no basis for relating the people here and there; it is seen as separation. There is no way to grasp the contradictions inherent to any self-movement.

The people on the sinking boat shout out, help us, we are the 99 per cent, and you are only the one per cent. They repeat what the one per cent has already told them. So the one per cent shouts back, even though we are one per cent we are indispensable. You must have been sleeping on the job since you have a leaky boat. We used to own 50 per cent of all the wealth of the world and now we only own 20 per cent of the wealth of the world. You are preoccupied with the one per cent and we deal with the percentages of who owns the wealth. When the wealth we owned at the end of WWII, 50 per cent, goes down to 20 per cent, it shows we cannot control everything. It is too big for us, unthinkable, we do not have words for it. So we will destroy what we cannot control to make sure no one else can control it. And you in the boat will keep shouting and describing. It is a passive spectator view.

The important point is that looking at the world as the one per cent and 99 per cent is the same as saying a major war is going to break out as U.S. wealth declines. We do not look at the world as a whole, its ensemble of human relations, of humans to humans and humans to nature. Instead we are dividing it into percentiles and supposedly the percentile will determine the action. The measure is quantity, do we have some of the wealth, not enough, do some people have too much of the wealth, and so forth. It is a means to hide the actual relations and what they are revealing.

In 2017, the Cold War and bipolar division of the world, the conditions under which NfC was first presented, no longer exist. At the end of the Cold War there were many people who understood that the end of that period was brought about based on the crisis of the social relations of production and the productive forces. It was understood that the period of the general crisis of capitalism had come to an end, and that a period of retreat of revolution with the institutionalization of an all-pervasive counter-revolution had come into being.

But there was not the awareness of the destruction of human productive powers and the blocking of the release of human energy required for the benefit of human society. This blocking underlies the current situation of retreat of revolution and counter-revolution. While many recognize the destructive forces that are being unleashed, little attention is paid to the fact that a much greater crisis of capitalism is underway. Without this awareness there is not an awareness that all individuals are being compelled to act in a new way.

If the act of acting in a new way is not addressed, the outlook that remains in place, the reference point that remains in place of past, present and future, is one of a past that no longer exists and of a future that has not yet existed. An individual person looking at the world will define where they are now using a dead past and a future yet to be born. The “I” of the present, the single human individual, will define themselves in terms of the non-existent past and non-existent future. They cannot deal with the present, what is inherited independent of will from the past, all our forms of governance, structures, arrangements, vocabulary, from the past. Nor can they deal with everything, with the whole, and the fact that all phenomena come into being and pass away. In other words, they look at the world as it exists outside of time and space. Space is the condition of our being, time is the now — instead a location is given, here we are drowning or there they are describing the water. The future therefore will either be utopia, which literally means outside of space, or dystopia — an imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror; an imaginary society in which social or technological trends have culminated in a greatly diminished quality of life or degradation of values.

Understanding and the “Unthinkable” World

Given this, what sort of understanding can be brought to bear on the world in the present moment, given that understanding is presented outside of time and space, outside of what the historical movement reveals? The understanding is referred to as Apocalypse Now. The whole human space worldwide is in a crisis of such immense proportions that the existence of the human species is called into question. Because of worldwide imperialism, and a world that gives into the wants and desires of world imperialism and the major powers, the outlook on the future is given as a global outlook, as a future of global nuclear holocaust, global war on terror, global famine. With this supposed reference to the current world, the claim is that any future is unthinkable. The horrors are too big to consider. These horrors exist objectively but subjectively there is to be no possible consideration. In other words, the horrors are objectively too big objectively to frame.

The inferences drawn from this global outlook are that the human productive forces, the humans that collectively created all the technology that allowed this to happen — nuclear war, climate change, etc. — these humans cannot control their own creations. There is supposedly a breakdown between the productive powers created and the products of that creation. They are too immense to think about or control. It is unthinkable, it cannot be thought through. NfC and our outlook reject this. It can be thought through; the contradictions can be resolved in favour of humanity.

The whole history of humanity up until this time, which people refer to as a human species, exists based on the ensemble of relations of humans and humans and humans and nature. But the inference that things created by humans cannot be thought about is that human beings as a species, as the whole of humanity, past, present and going into the future, now face extinction. The inference is that that species is just some category people use to collect all individuals. The entire species faces extinction based on what it created, yet the species has no thinking about what it created. This is absurd. The species responsible for creating human history, human society, is being seen as just a category of thought, that it does not exist as an active population.

The sum total of all the relations that ever existed — all our relates and thinking about that — breaks down too. This is to block recognition that relations of humans and humans and humans to nature are what are indispensable, not U.S. leadership, not those now in control. All individuals, all members of that human species, all persons are indispensable, not dispensable as the rulers claim.

All the relations of natural history and human history are breaking down and it is said there is no way for us to refer to what exists in the present. Global climate change, global war on terror, nuclear war, etc. — that global is something that cannot be thought about. Given the people claiming control are also claiming the situation is unthinkable, the only conclusion we can draw is that we need our own thinking and our own way of looking at the world, from a different vantage point. And that comes from the vantage point of revolutionary practice, which will enable us to resolve conditions to our advantage, the advantage of the working class and people. Even though the ensemble of all relations is huge, we can think it through.

That vantage point comes by taking up Understanding Requires an Act of Conscious Participation of the Individual — An Act of Finding Out. What is significant here is that the understanding is not based on people just participating together on the one hand, at an action or meeting for example, and on the other studying what the situation is. The single isolated individual that we are forced to be in the absence of taking up the historical framework, is that you participate with others and study what is going on. There is a separation, an absence of the human factor/social consciousness.

If you see them as separate, the society that exists will be reproduced.

The many ways people get together to participate, get together to study, the ways humans have of uniting, ends up with a top and a bottom, with a top superior to the bottom. That is what we are dealing with. When we talk about human beings, we talk about homo sapiens, it is not one part, homo, and then the other, sapiens, it is not homo plus sapiens. The act of conscious participation, an act of finding out, is a single whole. It is the same as saying human factor/social consciousness.

Instead, individuals are said to face other individuals in isolated ways, not as relations that each human enters into in relation to other individuals, collectives and all of nature and all of humanity. The whole history of the globe which is supposed to be coming to an end is torn apart, which is that the natural history is ripped apart from human history. Proof of that is that there are nuclear weapons created that could obliterate all productive powers, there is technology created that is going to bring the species to an end. The only way to survive is not by advancing human existence, but whether individuals will have food and clothing.

Understanding Requires an Act of Conscious Participation, An Act of Finding Out is a way of looking at the world. It is not the activity of some special interest group. NfC comes forward to provide a basis for an outlook, for what is relevant and what is not relevant. If you cannot see what is and is not relevant, you cannot see the necessity. You cannot see what history reveals, and this revealing takes place without mediation, independent of our will, without a revealer.

There are three aspects of any Now — the moment of the present; the order of things, the way they are arranged; and what has been inherited from the past. There is something directly emerging, being revealed in the present, without mediation. In the present there is the structure, the quality of what we have in contradiction with itself, the measure of the times. Any structure we talk about, the society we live in, is composed of what has been inherited from the past and the measure of how things are sorted out, parts and whole, individuals and collective.

Fidelity

Our fidelity is not to a percentile, to the 99 per cent, but to the ensemble of human relations. We constantly deal with people dividing things based on percentages, the one per cent, 99 per cent, per cent of income, per cent of control of the wealth, dividing that per cent, and so forth. There is no historical movement in that. Fidelity is to the relations of humans and humans and humans and nature and what they are revealing, which is the need for the New. It is not to a particular cause or interest group. We have to have fidelity to actual conditions, not ideas in our head.

For reference point, reference from NfC is the same as relate; we refer to relations, the ensemble of relations, all the relations between individuals and collectives in relation to the general, the whole ensemble. For the egocentric “I,” the “I” might rank preferences, desires. When we say “I as a relate,” we not only think about things and phenomena, we think about the whole of relations, the whole of the working class, for example, not just its parts.

The emphasis on Apocalypse Now, the world as unthinkable, is to deprive us of an outlook. Depriving us of an outlook is a form of coercion equal to the bombs and guns and corruption and bribery used by the rulers to remain in power. We need our own outlook, our own politics, our own organization. We need our own concepts, like those of democracy.

Democracy is a feature of class society. We have parts (all individuals and all collectives) in relation to their general well-being. From the egocentric “I,” you cannot deal with what is general. You can deal with what is too big or small, like too big to fail, or too big to think about. But you cannot sort out all the relations of individuals and collectives in relation to the general. If this sorting out is done as cartel, or as coalition, as is occurring today, the people will be deprived of power.

We need to frame conditions so we can look at the general. The general is not just everything together. It is also the source, what generates, and the next generation — this is the general. We have to have a way of identifying the source, what generates, and what happens to the next generation, the future generation. We need a way of identifying both the source, the human productive powers, the present, the social structure today, and the future. There is no way to frame this without the outlook of Necessity for Change.

To be able to be active, the “I” is a relate, which means something is the source, the “I”, and something is the target. The “I” is relating. The meaning emerges when you say what you are referring to. The coincidence of the act of conscious participation, act of finding out, is the coincidence of the actual situation, historical product and human activity. Through the act we establish the frame of reference. It is a product of that, it defines our space and our time now, the clash between past and present from which the future emerges independent of will. There is no participation without an organization that you have membership in. A reference frame requires membership. The egocentric “I” does not. With membership, the identity emerges by going through the act of participating and finding out. They have to coincide.

The identity of the human person emerges when the human person has membership in a human kind of organization appropriate for the conditions. The actual circumstances are filled with things that exist, as well as counter-facts. The actual is composed of the factual and counter-facts. You cannot on your own say these are the facts and everyone else has false news. Or these are the correct views and that is false. Instead we need membership in an organization that can go through the act of finding out in the actual historical situation to sort through what is factual and what is counter-factual, what is relevant and what is not. What is actual is that all things and phenomenon come into being and pass away. The circumstances we find ourselves in are inherited independent of our will. The necessity for the organization, membership and consciousness emerges because all relations that exist are independent of our individual will and there is the claim of ownership, control, domination, by the ruling class on the relations produced independent of will. Those who claim control, provide the will. And we are without that will, which is the definition of a slave. You are compelled to do what you do and cannot assert your own will.

The will that has to be asserted has a logic of its own. Repeating the mantra of “here we are drowning; there you are describing the water,” or changing phrases to give a better description, or talk about it in a different way — none of this deals with relate. Instead, the key content with relate is to plant the flag and go forward from there. NfC planted the flag in 1967 as a revolutionary reference point. It did so not to describe the world better. It has its own logic that can be followed from that zero point in 1967 to where it is now. Even though it is 50 years later, NfC will always remain that zero point, the point of origin.

The NfC analysis not only revolutionized the situation in the 1960s, but has continued to be mandatory for the development of the subjective forces for revolution since that time. Testimony to this are the successes achieved by the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and the Internationalists before it, based on the conclusions of the NfC analysis.

We can certainly say that our most important success is that despite everything that has been done to wipe us out and the tremendous loss of Comrade Bains twenty years ago, we are still here. What is the reason we are still alive and kicking, developing our forces and expanding our influence? Certainly not that any of us are geniuses; nor do we ascribe to theories according to which certain individuals are imbued with inherent genes giving them special insights and ability of prediction.

What characterizes our Party and keeps us on the revolutionary path is our adherence to the NfC analysis. What keeps us vital is our adherence to action with analysis in which action and analysis are one; our ability to recognize the common space that exists within society for the will to be to solve the problems that present themselves.

The Party has taken up the aim of eliminating all the old considerations and arrangements blocking society’s path to progress. It has launched an Historic Initiative to ensure nation-building takes place on a new historical basis that activates the human factor/social consciousness. To lead this endeavour, the Party is implementing a Plan of Action to transform the Party into a Mass Communist Party capable of leading the working class and others to bring about the social transformations demanded by the conditions.

CPC(M-L) is a Party that thinks with its own head and stands on its own two feet. The NfC analysis lays down ideological remoulding as the key to the uninterrupted advance and victory of revolution. Paying utmost attention to culture in ideological and social forms and to what the material conditions reveal in the here and now, CPC(M-L), similar to The Internationalists before it, rejects the notion of revolutionary politics and bourgeois culture, where Marxism is reduced to a dogma, and practice is overwhelmed with words that conciliate with imperialism and stifle the class struggle.

This Conference starts by looking into how these life and death matters present themselves in the Here and Now, and how the Now differs from the Then. Our aim is to reveal how to think about the situation and put an end to the dogma and outlook that activates the deadening anti-human factor/anti-consciousness. Such an outlook of the old smashes the political movement of the people for their empowerment. Without an outlook of the New and a way of cognizing the human relations and general intelligence that exist, everything and everyone are reduced to either dropping out because they cannot cope, going crazy unconcerned, expressing personal feelings, hatreds and desires, or engaging in acts of anarchism and spontaneity and fending for oneself.

Our Party is determined to build the New. Hardial Bains said:

“Social phenomena are sometimes like the harnessed waters of a mighty river kept in check by the dam of history. When the dam bursts suddenly, it is not history that crumbles into oblivion. No. To the contrary, every drop of that mighty flow resulting from the radical rupture nurtures the soil from which history bursts forth…. the outcome depends on how far the people see and grasp the necessity for change, the necessity to bring about the deep-going transformations demanded by history.”

(Edited slightly by TML for publication.)

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Island Line Affected By New Year’s Eve Strike

   

Island Line is among rail services across the UK to be affected by strike action this New Year’s Eve.

It’s the latest industrial action in an ongoing dispute as RMT protests against the role of guards and plans for driver-only trains.

The 24-hour strike will affect South Western Railways, including Island Line this evening.

 

 

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Labour’s Opposition MP, Emma Lewell-Buck – in the House of Commons on South Tyneside Hospital:

Emma Lewell-Buck – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 14th December 2017

South Tyneside Hospital

Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)

I am grateful for having been granted this timely and important Adjournment debate.
I know that this Government, despite all their warm words and platitudes, do not really care for our NHS. The very principle and essence of it simply does not sit well with their ideologically driven privatisation agenda.

We should judge this Government’s commitment to our NHS by their actions.

The shambolic top-down reorganisation that began in 2012 has been followed by increasing competition, increased privatisation, and now the introduction of sustainability and transformation plans and accountable care organisations that are heralding the end of our NHS.

Here is how it works. The Government starve the NHS of the finances it needs and refuse to implement collaborative working structures inside and outside Parliament to come up with a long-term sustainable plan for properly financing our NHS. They then force local areas in England to come up with plans to make £22 billion of efficiency savings to compensate for the Government’s own neglectful incompetence. As local areas grapple with these cuts, services are inevitably transferred from one hospital to another. The receiving hospital cannot cope. It buckles under the strain, it closes, and private healthcare takes over.

In South Shields, the sustainability and transformation plans have been brought in under the guise of a path to excellence, and we have been placed in an arbitrarily created boundary footprint area of Northumberland-Tyne and Wear. By 2021, the health and social care system in that footprint area is projected to be £960 million short of the funds it needs to balance its books while maintaining the same levels of care for patients. Make no mistake: these plans are about cuts. They are nothing to do with transforming our NHS for the better. The NHS has been set an impossible task by the Government, and the endgame is to see it in private hands.

Over a year ago, the management teams of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust merged, and work began in earnest on formulating these Government-led plans by local clinical commissioning groups that look after all the health services in our area, as well as the hospital trusts. The plans are scrutinised by a joint scrutiny committee of South Tyneside Council and Sunderland City Council, and the clinical commissioning group is accountable to the respective local authorities’ health and wellbeing boards.

The plans are officially supposed to be targeted at improving health and care, but people in Shields and right across England are discovering that they are actually about the biggest-ever programme from any Government to shut down our NHS once and for all. Alongside supposedly improving health and care, the Health Secretary has endorsed plans for cuts of up to £5 billion in our NHS. This is the man who has written about how to achieve full privatisation of the NHS, and who got the Chancellor, in the last Budget, to give £2.6 billion to help to embed these sustainability and transformation plans—in other words, using Government and taxpayers’ money to close down local hospitals.

Despite many people denouncing me and other campaigners for scaremongering, I have remained firm in my view that from the day the two management teams merged, the plan was to downgrade South Tyneside Hospital and move all our services to Sunderland. But I take no pleasure in being right about this. When the first phase of the consultation was launched, we were advised that the clinical teams’ preferred option was to move stroke services to Sunderland. Not only does having a preferred option fly in the face of the Gunning principles, but all our suspicions were confirmed when in October last year, without any public consultation, our stroke unit was closed and moved to Sunderland, with the promise that the measure was temporary and a response to staffing challenges. There is currently no option on the table that would allow the unit to come back to South Tyneside.

In relation to maternity services, gynaecological services, and children and young people’s urgent and emergency paediatrics, all the options presented lead to a drastic reduction in provision of acute services, in particular, for South Tyneside. Yet in October our A&E, inclusive of paediatrics, was found to be the second best in the country, and South Tyneside is one of the very few hospitals that has achieved the four-hour waiting time target.

I have been consistent in rejecting this consultation. I refuse to accept that a consultation that is predicated on a massive cuts agenda, against a backdrop of additional cuts to social care and other services, will do anything at all to improve the health and care that people in South Tyneside receive; in fact, it will do quite the opposite. I am not alone in that view. The trust and the clinical commissioning group state that the proposals before us were formulated by, and are supported by, clinicians and staff at our hospital, but many of those clinicians and staff have contacted me and provided me with evidence to show that they have, in fact, been actively blocked out of the formulation of these proposals. How on earth can the public be expected to trust a consultation that raises such serious questions about transparency and due process, and that has lacked integrity from the outset?

I have been trying to get my local authority to refer the whole shambolic consultation to the Secretary of State, so that the smokescreen can be lifted and matters conducted properly, with due process. So far, to my abject disappointment and that of my constituents, that has not happened. Constituents have also raised with me their concerns about the potential conflicts of interest. Our council leader is a paid non-executive director of the trust and chairs the health and wellbeing board. The chair of the CCG is the vice-chair of the health and wellbeing board and a practising local GP.

On 30 November, a press release was issued, advising that the special care baby unit was closing with immediate effect. The reason given for the closure was staffing issues. That closure, coincidently, sits neatly with all the proposed options put forward by the CCG and trust. The safety and wellbeing of babies and parents should, of course, always be a priority, but subsequent events indicate that this is yet another development in the managed decline of South Tyneside Hospital. On 3 December, after the local media had been advised, staff from the maternity unit were invited to a meeting to be told that from 8 am the following morning, the maternity unit would be closing as a result of staffing issues. That happened after the trust had discussed matters with regional groups—not local ones, and not staff.

We have now reached the stage at which no more babies are being born in South Tyneside, but the maternity unit has the full complement of staff present, as it did when it was fully and safely operational. The staff presented the trust with a workable rota system to keep the unit delivering, so there is no reason for the closure to continue. Right now, instead of delivering babies, these trained, professional and dedicated midwives are doing admin and transferring mams to neighbouring hospitals.

I have been advised that expectant mams are having to find, on average, £40 for each round-trip journey to another hospital in the region when they thought they were due to deliver. One woman was sent home after being told she was not in labour by a neighbouring hospital. Once home, and very much in labour, she ended up having a home birth because she simply could not afford another taxi, and ambulance waiting times were too long. The situation is dangerous and completely unsustainable for my constituents, and it takes away a woman’s right to choose where she gives birth.

From day one of this process, the trust and clinical commissioning group have given us one version of events, but the evidenced facts from the clinicians and other staff at the hospital tell a different story. The dedicated hard work and professionalism of clinicians and staff is being denigrated, their morale reduced as they work under the veiled threat that if they speak with me they will be risking their jobs.

There remains a multitude of unanswered questions—questions critical to the whole process that have been asked repeatedly. What capacity does Sunderland Royal Hospital have to take the extra patients from South Tyneside? What will happen to the staff at South Tyneside? What transport arrangements will be put in place, bearing in mind that car ownership in the area is among the lowest in the entire country? Does the North East Ambulance Service have the capacity for the increased emergency demand that will be created by the options?

What are the proposals for the next phases of the consultation? This is only the first phase of a consultation that has another two phases to go. We cannot continue with a situation in which those tasked with providing the very best healthcare scenarios for my constituents are acting outwith that remit and not promoting good, safe, equitable healthcare. Choice has been removed from my constituents: their health needs—in fact, their lives—are deemed secondary to those of others in the region. I am asking the Minister to support the taking of some serious steps. NHS England must step in, investigate and, if necessary, remove the clinical commissioning group’s powers, and NHS Improvement must take investigative action against the trust.

Things have become very nefarious in Shields; people have misunderstood my representing and relaying of my constituents’ views and laying out of the facts as personal attacks. I remind those who have tried to silence me, and who have stated publicly that I am a liar and tried to bully me into toeing their line, that I put myself forward for public office not to cosy up to others or bow to those in power or vested interests, but to represent the people of Shields no matter how uncomfortable for some that may be. No amount of threats or bullying will stop me from doing the job I was elected and entrusted to do.

I end by paying tribute to all the amazing staff in our hospital and those in South Tyneside who have wholeheartedly joined the fight to save it—especially Roger Nettleship and Gemma Taylor, who have worked tirelessly leading the “Save South Tyneside Hospital” campaign and are currently crowdfunding to raise money for a potential judicial review. Please, if anyone is listening, donate and help us—this process does not begin and end with our hospital. The Government are coming for our entire NHS.

Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health 5:12 pm, 14th December 2017
I congratulate Mrs Lewell-Buck on securing this debate about the future of South Tyneside Hospital. I pay tribute to the emotion she showed in standing up for her constituents, but I have to say that I was disappointed by the tone she adopted, particularly at the start of her remarks. Frankly, her allegation of conspiracy—trying to paint the issue as some kind of dastardly plot to privatise the health service, for which there is not a shred of evidence—is scaremongering that will undoubtedly alarm residents in her area. That rather undermined the force of her quite proper concern for her constituents, so I am sorry that she chose to characterise her position in that way.
I welcome, however, the hon. Lady’s support for the staff at her hospital and join her in congratulating them on their work. Despite significant pressures, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust is performing very well for the vast majority of patients under its care. She pointed out the performance in A&E. The trust is one of the few in the country to be performing at and above the four-hour waiting target, but that is not the only area in which it is performing well. It is also one of the few trusts across the country to be meeting all of the eight cancer targets, as well as the referral to treatment waiting time targets—again, that is unusual at present—and all the diagnostic targets. It is therefore one of the best-performing trusts in the country, and I think the hon. Lady and I will be on the same page on that.

The trust and its neighbour, the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, recently formed an alliance known as South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group. That is why the group is looking at a reconfiguration of services across the two trusts to remove unnecessary duplication and improve the sustainability of services to ensure that the local population’s healthcare needs are well looked after across the range of activities.
Ultimately, as the hon. Lady knows, any service changes at South Tyneside Hospital will be a matter for local health authorities. All proposed service changes should be based on clear evidence that they will deliver better outcomes for patients. The changes should also meet the four tests for service change: they have support from GP commissioners; they are based on clinical evidence; they demonstrate public and patient engagement; and they consider patient choice. In addition, NHS England introduced this year a test on the future use of beds that requires commissioners to assure it that any proposed reduction will be sustainable over the longer term and that key risks such as staff levels are addressed.

 

Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)
The Minister says that both hospitals are working together to create safe healthcare for both populations. However, how does shutting down a maternity unit and a special care baby unit with hardly any notice at all help to create that environment? Surely they are failing the task they have been handed.

 

Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health
I am coming on to explain precisely why there was an emergency shutdown of that facility because the hon. Lady’s characterisation does not quite represent what happened. I will go into that in some detail to try to reassure her and her constituents about the reasons behind this sudden—and, we hope, temporary—closure.
On 30 November, as the hon. Lady pointed out, the delivery of high-risk births at South Tyneside District Hospital was suspended due to staffing pressures. A number of urgent safety protocols were put in place to accommodate a very small number of low-risk deliveries over the weekend of 2 and 3 December. Since 4 December, all maternity services have been temporarily suspended at South Tyneside Hospital on patient safety grounds. The trust did not take this decision on its own initiative. It sought advice from the Northern Neonatal Network and the heads of midwifery services for the north-east of England. Their unanimous clinical view, based on all the evidence available at that time, was that births should be temporarily suspended in the interests of the safety of mothers and babies.
The trust has about 70 hospital-based staff who are directly affected, who have all been asked to report for duty as normal. The staff are working with the trust to contact the 165 women currently affected to ensure that safe alternative arrangements are made. The trust has been in close contact with neighbouring units and has had overwhelming support from NHS partners across the system. Women have been choosing to deliver in Sunderland, Gateshead and Newcastle, with a number of women opting for a home birth.
The trust is working closely to make sure there is an individual plan for each patient and that there is clear communication between the healthcare professionals involved with their care. The trust aims to reopen the special care baby unit for low-risk births when a safe staffing level has been established.
I now want to dwell on the specific staffing challenges that have precipitated this action. South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has been contending with the challenge of safely staffing the special care baby unit over many years, so this situation has not just crept up on it. When the Care Quality Commission visited in May 2015 and rated the trust overall as requiring improvement, inspectors raised serious concerns about its special care baby unit staffing arrangements. Since 2015, the trust management has made relentless efforts to mitigate these staffing issues. Regular recruitment has taken place for permanent vacancies in the special care baby unit and paediatric emergency care over the past two years, with the latest round taking place only this month.
Contrary to the hon. Lady’s allegations of a long-standing conspiracy to compel the unit to close, I want to give her the facts about that unit as I understand them. In recent months, chronic staff sickness has reduced the six full-time equivalent specialist neonatal nurse workforce in the special care baby unit to just four full-time equivalent staff. That has resulted in an unsustainable situation, with the remaining nurses working many extra hours each week to ensure safe staffing on the unit. One of the four remaining nurses then became ill, exacerbated by work pressures, and that led to unsustainable staffing levels to keep the unit open. It has not been possible for the trust, however hard it has tried over the past two and a half years, to fill the rota. It has not been possible most recently to use bank and agency staff to do so, given the very specialised skills required by neonatal nurses in the special care baby unit. This decision, although difficult, was driven by very clear clinical advice that put the safety of mothers and babies first and foremost, and also took account of the health and wellbeing of hospital staff, to whom the trust also owes a duty of care.
The hon. Lady referred to the consultation that has taken place in recent months over the path to excellence.

 

Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)
I thank the Minister for giving way again, but I am really disappointed. I can see that he has the official lines from the trust and the CCG, but did he not listen to what I said? Regional groups made this decision, not local groups. The unit is now at the full staff complement at which it has been historically. In short, there is no staffing problem there right now. Midwives are sitting doing admin work when they could be delivering babies.

 

Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health
I was referring to the special care baby unit. My understanding is that the staffing levels at the neonatal unit are as I have just described to the hon. Lady. If she has other information, I will happily go back to the trust tomorrow to ask whether it has managed to fill those slots. There is no intention of keeping the maternity unit for normal births suspended for any longer than is necessary.
I will touch on an area that the hon. Lady did not mention specifically, because a similar situation occurred in relation to stroke services in the region. I want to put that into context to help her to understand why the decision was taken.
Since December 2016, any patient requiring acute care for a stroke has been taken to Sunderland. This decision was taken to ensure patient safety because South Tyneside also had a significant staffing challenge in its stroke unit. In fact, it had only one part-time physician, who was single-handedly assessing and treating incoming stroke patients. The stroke unit faced significant pressures in maintaining a sufficiently staffed nursing rota to support that clinician to maintain the patient safety required for stroke patients.
The benefits of centralising high acuity stroke care have been shown in Manchester, London and other parts of the country where reduced mortality and a more efficient use of resources have resulted in better care for patients. Most other parts of the country have either implemented similar changes or have plans to do so. Centralising stroke care into a smaller number of larger units provides the opportunity to ensure that there are specialist nurses and doctors available to manage patients at all times, and to provide access to imaging and other investigatory facilities immediately as they are required. I will illustrate what that means to patients, who are at the heart of these changes.
Across the NHS in England, 84% of stroke patients now spend the majority of their hospital stay in a specialist stoke unit, compared with 60% in 2010. This has led to excellent progress in the treatment of stroke over recent years. More than 93% of stroke patients across England now receive a brain scan within 12 hours of their arrival at hospital, with more than 50% screened within one hour. That is a huge improvement since 2010, when 70% of patients waited up to 24 hours for a scan. The concentration of stroke services and specialist units has helped to save lives.
The workforce challenges experienced by South Tyneside Hospital are being proactively addressed in the long term through the path to excellence programme that the hon. Lady mentioned. This is a five-year transformation programme for healthcare services in South Tyneside and Sunderland, and a localised response to the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham STP of which she was so critical. The public consultation for the path to excellence programme ran from 5 July to 15 October. The areas of service under consultation were: maternity and women’s healthcare services, including the special care baby unit; stroke care services; and children and young people’s urgent and emergency services. Before the CCGs make their decision, they will consider all the feedback gathered during the consultation from all stakeholders, including the hon. Lady and other hon. Members. The CCGs are also holding a number of public engagement sessions between now and February, in which I strongly encourage her to participate. An extraordinary meeting of the CCG’s governing bodies will be held in February 2018, in public, for the two CCGs to make their final decisions.
The hon. Lady mentioned the Save South Tyneside Hospital group. I am aware that the group is active in campaigning against any reconfiguration of healthcare services between the two hospitals. I hope that I have helped to clarify to her that no decisions will be made on reconfiguration until the responses to the path to excellence consultation have been thoroughly analysed.

 

Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Education) (Children and Families)
The Minister’s analysis of the Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign is incorrect. We want safe, decent healthcare for people in South Tyneside. We are campaigning for equitable, safe healthcare.

 

Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health
I am sure that that is the objective. It is also the objective of the trust to ensure that sustainable, high-quality services are available to the populations of the areas served by both hospitals.
The South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust now faces a challenging task in ensuring that the two hospital trusts, through the path to excellence process, remove any unnecessary duplication and improve sustainability. It is important that the trusts work well together, with the local community and with their commissioning groups, to ensure that any plans that they have are communicated clearly to local populations. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady says that that is not happening. It is incumbent on the trusts to engage properly with their local communities. I am sure that they will be watching this debate and taking note of the comments that she and I are making. There should be full public engagement and, as I have identified, that will continue right up until the decision of the CCGs in February.
I conclude by simply saying that it is incumbent on all of us who represent our local communities to get engaged —the hon. Lady is doing this with her campaign group—with the people who are responsible for making decisions. That is the local NHS in her area. [Interruption.] She indicates that she is engaged with her local NHS. I am pleased to hear that, and I ask her to encourage all other MPs to get engaged in a constructive way in order to find the best solution for their local residents that will put patient safety at the top of the list.

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Piano simulator app for smartphone and tablet PC users launched in DPRK.

Piano simulator app for smartphone and tablet PC users launched in North Korea

Kim Il Sung University also released e-book app enabling users to read books published in 2017

A piano simulator application for tablet PC and smartphone users has been launched in North Korea, the Pyongyang-linked Arirang-Meari website reported on Sunday.

The app – which is called “Training Program for Piano Performance” – allows children and novices to play a virtual piano using sheet music and is one of several mobile applications released in the DPRK in recent weeks.

“Children and beginners who want to learn piano without the assistance of teachers can improve their performance abilities and look through sheet music at any time and place,” Arirang-Meari reported. “This program has been gaining popularity currently among all people who want to learn piano.”

Arirang-Meari did not provide details about the production company that designed the app.

The virtual music instrument app was sparsely reported on by North Korean media and websites despite the release of numerous other mobile applications this year, including an updated quiz app and farming app, as well as mobile games.

Training Program for Piano Performance I Photo: Arirang-Meari

E-BOOKS

North Korean companies and institutes have also introduced several programs for reading e-books and accessing information online, an ongoing trend in the DPRK.

Arirang-Meari on Monday reported that the information technology research institute at Kim Il Sung University recently launched an e-book reader app for mobile phone users.

App users can browse books published in 2017 by installing the program “Literature Book 2017,” the media said, adding that the program is “a hit with young students who love literature.”

Literature Book 2017 I Photo: Arirang-Meari

The Institute of Koryo Medicine has also developed a program which can browse “Hyangyakjipsongbang,” one of the top books on Koryo medicine along with “Uibangryuchwi” and “Tonguibogam,” state media DPRK Today reported on November 26.

The “Hyangyakjipsongbang” was originally compiled in the early 15th century through reference to around 260 publications on Koryo medicine. The aim of the publication was to enable people to “easily treat disease” using ingredients which are abundant in Korea.

North Korean researchers used image data from the original document to develop the program, which allows readers to see both the “original text and the translation” of the “Hyangyakjipsongbang.” The “Hyangyakjipsongbang” was originally written in Chinese characters.

Users can also search and browse around 13,300 types of treatment based on categories including disease symptoms, prescriptions, acupuncture and moxibustion therapies, folk remedies, and dietary therapies.

“This program can enable medical workers to look through the ‘Hyangyakjipsongbang’ conveniently and more quickly develop efficacious methods of treatment and medicines which can fit the physical constitution of our people,” the DPRK Today said.

The media outlet added that the program won first prize at the 28th National Exhibition of IT Achievements in November.

In addition, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in July that Pyongyang Medical College of Kim Il Sung University had developed a program called “Yusan (Heritage) 1.0,” an online version of “Tonguibogam.”

“Stored in its database are at least one million Chinese characters from original texts with their Korean version in five volumes, over 3,000 Koryo medical terms, [and] data on 1,000-odd Koryo medicines,” the media said in its English edition.

Health check-up app “Vitality 1.0” I Photo: Arirang-Meari

HEALTH APP

Arirang-Meari reported on December 8 that, in addition to these online databases, a health check-up app called “Vitality 1.0” has launched in the DPRK.

The app reportedly allows users to check health conditions such as pulse rate, blood pressure and viscosity, eyesight, hearing, and lung capacity with their smartphone’s camera and microphone.

The product is similar in purpose to a mobile fitness application released earlier this year that allows users to access information about different types of muscles in the body and what exercises can enhance them.

Edited by Bryan Betts
12 Dec 2017 – 12:38 by jbcentre

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