Socialist Worker

Tube train derailed by privatisation

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2059

The derailment of a Central Line tube train in London on Thursday of last week is down to the privatisation of London Underground infrastructure. It could have been avoided if management had listened to the warnings of the RMT rail workers’ union.

The maintenance and upgrading of London Underground has been parcelled out to private companies. The crisis-hit Metronet consortium is responsible for two thirds of this as part of the Public Private Partnership.


Last week a westbound Central Line train hit a tarpaulin between Mile End and Bethnal Green stations and derailed. The tarpaulin had been dislodged by turbulence from a train passing in the other direction.

Around 700 people from the derailed train and one behind were stranded in a tunnel for more than hour after the incident.

Eleven people were taken to hospital.

The RMT had warned London Underground in October 2006, November 2006 and in May this year that materials stored in a bolt-hole between Mile End and Bethnal Green were not secure.

This had resulted in incidents where trains were striking obstructions on the track.

London Underground claimed they had investigated the warnings about the storage. But no safety reps were present during this. Metronet offered London Underground assurances and this was accepted.

Despite last week’s disaster London Underground are continuing with the imposition of its new rule books, which have received criticism because they are mere guidance documents rather than rules.

Metronet is also demanding more public money to bail it out.

It has requested an emergency review for the cost overrun on one of its underground divisions.

The RMT is stepping up its call to bring the private contractors back in-house for reasons of public safety.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that it was the fourth incident in 18 months in the same area where private contractors were operating.

He said, “This union has raised concerns over the bad storage of equipment by contractors in this area and wrote to London Underground back in April demanding an investigation, yet nothing has been done.

“Before Ken Livingstone got elected as London mayor he said he did not want ‘blood on his hands’ over PPP so now he has an opportunity to act in the interests of public safety.”

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, said, “This incident should underscore to the government, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the management of the emergency services that our transport system and fire and ambulance services require proper levels of staffing.


“There should be no more talk of running down staffing levels on the tube or of ‘reorganising’ fire services by cutting appliances—as the GLA did at Bethnal Green station, which was central to the emergency response.

“It is also apparent that this incident is connected to the chaos wrought by the part-privatisation of the tube under Gordon Brown’s PPP scheme.

“I join RMT general secretary Bob Crow in calling on Ken Livingstone to immediately bring the contracts to maintain and renew the tube’s infrastructure back in house.”

Pressure your MP to back the early day motion (EDM 1862) on the derailment put forward by Respect MP George Galloway.

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Article information

Tue 10 Jul 2007, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2059
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