A leaked report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed this week that the drive to privatise London's tube has compromised safety. It listed 69 'significant' issues which London Underground management have not resolved.
The HSE says that the government's planned privatisation and break-up of the tube cannot go ahead while those problems remain. Rail unions have been pointing out for months that the division of the tube network into six units in preparation for privatisation has hit safety.
Members of the RMT union were expected to return a strong vote for strike action over safety and job security in a ballot at the end of this week. RMT assistant secretary Bob Crow says that could mean strikes alongside members of the drivers' ASLEF union on Monday 19 March and 'every Monday in the run-up to the general election'.
London Underground management was shaken by last month's tube strike, but has refused to concede all the unions' demands. And the New Labour government signalled this week that it would press ahead with its PPP privatisation scheme for the tube.
Talks between London mayor Ken Livingstone's transport commissioner Bob Kiley and deputy prime minister John Prescott were deadlocked at the start of this week.
Ken Livingstone was threatening legal action if the government pushed ahead with its scheme. Going to court could embarrass New Labour, but it is no guarantee of stopping privatisation.
The rail unions have got the power to stop privatisation and force the government to invest in public transport. The quicker hard-hitting strike action and a popular political campaign against privatisation are built, the better.