Union bosses call for 'barmy PR stunt' railway volunteer scheme to be scrapped

22 June 2020, 07:29

The scheme will be deployed in train stations across the UK
The scheme will be deployed in train stations across the UK. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Rail union leaders have hit out at plans to have volunteers in purple high viz jackets working on the railway, branding the scheme a "PR stunt."

Earlier this month the Government said it planned to deploy an army of "journey makers" across the rail network to remind passengers to wear face coverings.

According to a recruitment website, "Journey Makers, will be offering guidance, providing friendly advice, reminding passengers about social distancing measures, preventing overcrowding and helping vulnerable passengers on their journeys."

But, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) union have said the scheme should be scrapped and warned it would divert the industry away from tackling the impact of Covid-19.

RMT assistant general secretary Mick Lynch said: "RMT warned from the off that this half-baked Government PR stunt was a waste of time and a diversion from the challenges we really face on the railway as lockdown is eased. It should be scrapped now before more time and energy is wasted.

"It is crystal clear that the employers, the staff and the public themselves have seen the Journey Makers scheme for what it is - a piece of PR puffery cooked up in the Downing Street bunker by Boris Johnson's advisers.

"The idea of unleashing thousands of volunteers onto the railway in their purple vests when safety, security, experience and team working are paramount was always barmy.

"RMT is demanding that the volunteer scheme be scrapped and that we concentrate our efforts across the industry on delivering the staffing numbers required to safely manage the incredibly complex new environment we are operating in."

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Last month Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Schapps said: “We’re managing the transport network to make it as safe as possible. This week we deployed 3,400 individuals from the British Transport Police, Network Rail and Transport for London. These marshals worked with the public to help prevent services from becoming overcrowded."

The union had raised the threat of industrial action over the issue.