WPC questions TPR about Railways Pension Scheme

The Work and Pensions Committee has written to The Pensions Regulator with regards to its engagement with the Railways Pension Scheme.

The letter to newly appointed TPR chief executive Charles Counsell comes as it was reported that the scheme has a funding gap of between £5-6bn. Last week, it was revealed that the Department for Transport had banned Stagecoach from bidding for railway franchise competitions over concerns it has failed to safeguard the risk of sections of the RPS.

In the letter, the committee chair, Frank Field said it was “welcome news” that the government is taking seriously the funding of workplace pension obligations by firms who deliver public services. However, the letter noted that a “substantial deficit” in the RPS remains, and questions that it “requires an urgent solution”.

“I understand TPR have been investigating these issues for some time, with rail firms now facing significant pension deficits. Might you please outline in a short note to the committee, the extent of the deficit and TPR’s actions and future plans to work with firms and the Department for Transport to address this shortfall,” Field asked Counsell.

Commenting, Field said: “While the staggering, parlous state of the Railways Pension Scheme is anything but welcome, the one positive here is the clear signal from government to industry of further, heavy consequences for so badly mismanaging a pension scheme.

“In the wake of Carillion it is encouraging to see government now taking public service provider pension schemes more seriously. Today we’ve written to TPR to see what they’ve done so far with this mess, and what the threat of further action by them can achieve to protect pensioners.”

Earlier today, RMT general secretary Mike Cash warned of national, co-ordinated action if there is any threat to workers’ pensions.

"The fiasco over Stagecoach and Virgin being banned from the franchise lottery because they refuse to underpin ‎their pension obligations has laid bare the chaos of privatisation and has left RMT members, including many in Scotland, facing a period of deep uncertainty. That scandalous situation has to be brought to an end as a matter of urgency,” Cash said.

"RMT has made it clear that any threat to our members pensions, jobs or working conditions as a result of a politically-driven, privatisation crisis they are not responsible for will be met with co-ordinated and robust action."

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