Socialist Worker

Rail bosses use law to stop safety strike

Issue No. 1670

A STRIKE to protect rail passengers' safety was declared illegal by high court judge Mr Justice Turner on Friday of last week. Rail bosses want to change the guards' duties so they are no longer responsible for train safety. Instead they will be glorified ticket collectors and food sellers.

A guard from west London said, 'What would have happened if the guard had been collecting ticket money in the front first class carriage of the Paddington train? Who would have opened the doors? How many more passengers would have died?'

The bosses are using the Tory anti-union laws, which New Labour has refused to repeal, to stop the guards' strike. Guards belonging to the RMT rail union voted by a nine to one majority to strike. A guard working for Silverlink said, 'The rail companies say we can't go on strike against them because they did not introduce the changes. And the judge rules that we can't go on strike against Railtrack because they are not our employers. It's a Catch 22.'

The bosses must not be allowed to get away with this. The RMT should put passengers' and drivers' safety before the judge's ruling.

Rail company GNER organised a seven hour training course last week. Catering managers were to be trained as guards to break the strike. The men responsible for bossing around the people making the tea and sandwiches could have been responsible for the safety of up to 550 people.

Summit is a failure

DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott announced plans to improve rail safety on Monday. His plans will do nothing fundamental to improve safety on the railways. The measures he wants to introduce include:

Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) is to be introduced by the end of 2002, a year early. This is the cheaper warning system preferred by Prescott. It does not work on trains travelling faster than 70mph. TPWS would not have prevented the 1997 Southall rail crash because one of the trains was travelling at 125 miles per hour.

Rail employees are to be allowed to report safety concerns to a 'whistleblower's hotline' without fear of losing their jobs. Some rail companies opposed even this basic reform.

Station perfect just for one day

ON 21 October Paddington station opened for the first time since the rail crash.

At 6am a host of Railtrack managers were on the platform giving advice to staff and passengers.

Drivers were issued with new speed restrictions.

Some trains even had two drivers.

Skilled engineers patrolled the platforms checking each train coming in and out of the station for faults.

It was a model of how a station could be run. The next day the Railtrack managers were tucked up in bed, the engineers had been sent back to their depots and the First Great Western staff were back at their HQ. One driver for Great Western Trains told Socialist Worker, 'I've never seen so many managers, supervisors and engineers. It's one big bloody con. Will they be here tomorrow or the day after?'

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Article information

Sat 30 Oct 1999, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1670
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