Socialist Worker

Runaway train is warning that cuts could mean disaster on Tube

Issue No. 2215

RMT activists leafleted passengers at Euston station last week to highlight recent safety issues on London Underground  (Pic: Smallman )

RMT activists leafleted passengers at Euston station last week to highlight recent safety issues on London Underground (Pic: Guy Smallman)

An urgent investigation is underway on the London Underground after a “runaway” train on Friday of last week.

In an accident that could have ended with disastrous consequences, an engineering train broke loose and narrowly avoided a collision with a passenger train leaving Archway station at around 6.40am.

The train had lost power and was being towed by an empty passenger train when it decoupled and rolled downhill.

London Underground bosses have been trying to downplay the severity of the incident, claiming that passengers were never in danger and that the train was moving too slowly to cause any damage.

But a London Underground worker told Socialist Worker, “The train was travelling at 18 miles an hour.

“This is not slow, particularly for a vehicle weighing several tonnes.”

There are passengers on the Tube network from 5.30am, so a collision with a passenger train carrying people to work was possible.


Only the quick action of Tube staff averted a disaster.

Socialist Worker has been handed footage showing internal monitors during the “near miss” by workers who are terrified that London Underground’s safety regime is deliberately being watered‑down through cost‑cutting measures, including job cuts.

Overnight works are carried out by Transport for London subsidiary Tube Lines, which is managed by private company Amey.

Tube Lines is the remaining third of the disastrous London Underground Public-Private Partnership scheme.

Workers continue to demand that all maintenance work should be brought back in-house.

Instead, London mayor Boris Johnson and London Underground directors keep private sector contractors in charge.

Tube worker members of the RMT union have just returned a massive strike vote against job cuts and are set to announce strike dates alongside TSSA members whose ballot over the same issue was set to be declared on Wednesday of this week.

The jobs Tube bosses want removed are vital to keeping passengers safe and to maintaining the service.

They include workers who monitor possible threats to safety, help lost children, assist ill passengers, make it possible for disabled people to get around, deal with queues, and find lost property.


As one Tube union activist explained, “The two issues of jobs and safety are linked.

No matter how advanced the technological safety equipment installed, ultimately only trained and qualified staff can evacuate and rescue in times of crisis.

“The speed of our response, before the emergency services arrive on the scene, can be the difference between life and death.

“London Underground know this, which is why their cost-cutting measures are a disgrace and must be resisted. They are willing to play with people’s lives.”

RMT union members at the Alstom train maintenance firm have voted by 74 to ten for strikes over pay.

The bosses’ offer fails to match the level of inflation or pay rises for staff elsewhere on the network.

Workers are also angry at management’s use of the disciplinary processes against people who have made a mistake.

Alstom is one of the last private companies on the Tube. It is squeezing workers to make up for its failure to notch up the profits it had expected.

Alstom workers were discussing what action to take as Socialist Worker went to press.

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Article information

Tue 17 Aug 2010, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2215
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