A FORMER Waverley Station train guard is in the running to become the most powerful union boss in the country.
Alan Pottage, who took a job on the railways at 18 to help pay for a new amplifier for his band, could replace Bob Crow, below, as the leader of RMT union, with the power to bring the UK to a standstill.
Mr Pottage, a former Leith Academy pupil, will inherit his late friend Mr Crow’s £145,000 salary and his mantle as the UK’s most controversial union baron in the country if he wins a national leadership ballot on September 22.
He brought his leadership campaign to Edinburgh yesterday, handing out leaflets to commuters at Haymarket Station, criticising rail-fare increases and plans to remove train guards.
He said: “I’ve been a train guard, and I’ve intervened in situations on trains. If you take away that, the trains will still run, but the public will get less for the money it’s spending.
“I started off when there was a nationalised industry under British Rail. The problem then was that successive governments starved it of investment.
“What we’ve had since 1995 is the complete break-up of the industry. We’ve now got over 500 different companies competing against each other. It’s confusion, and it’s not good. As we’ve exposed time and time again, there’s more money going into private railways now than there ever was when it was nationalised.
“That’s why time and time again polling shows the public support bringing the railways back into public ownership.”
The election was triggered by the shock death of Mr Crow, who served as general secretary since 2002, dividing opinion with uncompromising tactics and flamboyant style.
Mr Pottage, who describes himself as a “frontrunner” for the RMT leadership, said: “My views are the same as Bob’s, that we need to have a strong union, one that will stand up and make a case against things like rail fares going up, and cutting staff to add to the profits of private operators.”
His 32 years in the union have taken him as far as South Africa, where he was arrested and expelled in 1990 for demonstrating against apartheid. But his railway career was only sparked by his musical desires.He said: “When I was 18 I was in a band, so I wanted an amp. My brother worked in the railways, so he got me a job, but I didn’t really see it as a long-term thing.”