Handouts to rail firms-safety still ignored
Prescott rewards the guilty bosses
NEW LABOUR pledged a huge windfall to the privatised rail companies last week. At the same time the inquiry into the Paddington crash revealed that the train operators have still not completed basic safety measures.
John Prescott is to let privateers off an estimated �1.6 billion in profits due to the Treasury over the next ten years. Yet at the inquiry into the Paddington disaster Alison Forster, the First Great Western trains safety director, admitted there were too few emergency hammers on her company's train that was involved in the crash.
Trapped passengers have told the inquiry that there was no way they could smash windows to get out of the burning wreck. Forster confessed last week, "I have only appreciated it [increasing the number of hammers] having heard the evidence of passengers at this inquiry." A Thames Train management witness also admitted that there was nothing at all on the Thames trains to break windows with.
- ASLEF RAILWAY union leader Mick Rix had to defend dead Paddington driver Michael Hodder after a Railtrack lawyer "raised the possibility" that he had been on a mobile phone to his son to wish him a happy birthday at the time of the crash. There was no evidence at all that Hodder even owned a mobile.
- RMT UNION members working for rail infrastructure company Railtrack are to be balloted for strike action. Signalling workers and office staff have twice rejected an inadequate pay deal. They also want the company to guarantee a 35 hour working week. The ballot result is due at the end of June.
'Sell off all council houses'
THE government has admitted the real agenda behind its housing plans- the end of council housing. Until now the government has claimed it is motivated by tenant choice. Council tenants, it has claimed, can choose between staying with the council or transferring to a new private landlord.
Another option is for councils themselves to set up what are called "arms length" housing companies, in other words removed from democratic control and answerable to the banks. But government housing official Mike Gahagan told a recent conference that staying with the council is no longer an option. "It is either transfer or an arms length company," he said.
Rents to soar
COUNCILS AND companies trying to privatise council homes tell tenants that their rents will be guaranteed after privatisation. Most privateers offer a five year limit to rent rises of inflation plus 1 percent. But as privatisations have run into opposition, councils and the private housing companies have responded by offering longer guarantees, in some cases for up to ten years. The government has moved to make such guarantees illegal. It has written to all councils planning transfer this year saying that any guarantee over five years "should no longer be permitted as part of the transfer proposals".