Rail freight group DB Cargo to shed 900 UK jobs
Britain’s largest rail freight operator, DB Cargo UK, is to shed almost 900 jobs, more than a quarter of its workforce. The German-owned firm blamed “rapid and unprecedented changes in the markets it serves” for the decision, with the dwindling of coal and steel transportation a major factor. It is proposing to cut 893 posts across its business, as well as downsizing its train fleet and closing depots.
The firm employs 3,400 people in the UK. Unions said it was a “devastating blow” to the rail freight industry and called on the government to intervene to save jobs.
Hans-Georg Werner, chief executive of DB Cargo UK, said: “Responsible and successful businesses must evolve and reshape as their markets change and sometimes this means making tough decisions.
“Whilst this is a difficult time for all of us at DB Cargo UK, reshaping the company will enable us to build a business for the future and protect the majority of jobs.
We are fully committed to supporting colleagues who may be at risk of redundancy.” Werner added: “We firmly believe in the future of rail freight in the UK. Our motorways and roads are becoming more congested and rail offers fast and clean supply chain solutions.”
The decision to phase out coal-fired power stations in order to cut carbon dioxide emissions – four closed earlier this year, leaving six operational – has resulted in a 78% year-on-year reduction in the number of coal trains operated by DB Cargo, Railway Gazette reported. The problems facing the UK’s steel industry have also led to a 33% decline in the number of DB Cargo trains running in this sector in the first nine months of 2016. Last month the government published a rail freight strategy underlining its commitment to rail freight, including ensuring more capacity on the network.
But the RMT union accused the government of a “shocking lack of support” for the freight sector. The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “This is devastating news brought on through a combination of cut-throat practices in the UK rail freight industry and a shocking lack of government support for this key section of our transport infrastructure. “RMT’s executive will be meeting this afternoon to consider our response but it is imperative right now that the government intervene to save skilled jobs in the rail freight industry which are being butchered before our eyes due to a lack of action to protect steel, coal and the rest of our manufacturing base.”
TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “This news will be a devastating blow to all the fine people working in the UK rail freight industry. And unless we come up with an immediate rescue plan, it is also very bad news for Britain. Our ability to shift cargo by rail should be central to any UK future, joined-up, environmental, as well as economic and transport, planning.
This announcement is a hammer blow to our strategic capability to be able to do so.”
He called on the government to bring DB Cargo into public ownership, an appeal unlikely to find favour with Theresa May’s government.
DB Cargo said no final decisions had yet been taken and the proposed redundancies would be subject to formal collective and individual consultations.
- ^ four closed earlier this year, leaving six operational (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Railway Gazette reported (www.railwaygazette.com)