Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1707

Rail fat cats still betray

This article is over 21 years, 5 months old
Issue 1707


Rail fat cats still betray

DEPUTY PRIME minister John Prescott unveiled new spending plans for transport last week. But the great bulk of the cash will be going as subsidy to privatised bus and rail firms.

That means a boost for companies which put profit before safety. The Paddington rail disaster inquiry which is going on at the moment shows that these fat cats have not changed their attitude.

Railtrack told the inquiry last week that it wants to install the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) to stop future accidents rather than the Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system. ATP would cost 1.9 billion, TPWS one sixth of that.

But TPWS is not nearly so effective. It is no use for trains travelling over 70mph and would not have stopped, for example, the disaster at Southall in 1997 in which seven people died. ATP was recommended to be fitted over a decade ago after the Clapham rail disaster.

The Paddington inquiry is supposed to be deciding between TPWS and ATP. But even before this part of the hearings began, Railtrack wrote to the inquiry last week and said that it was going ahead with TPWS. The company’s legal adviser added that fitting another safety system subsequently would be unjustifiable “on Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 principles because it will not keep risk as low as REASONABLY practicable”.

No wonder that when Gerald Corbett, Railtrack’s chief executive, gave evidence to the inquiry last week he was heckled and called “Judas” by the families of the 31 who died at Paddington.

After Paddington John Prescott promised us that “money would be no object” when it came to installing new safety systems. If he is too craven to renationalise the rail industry then he should at least tell Railtrack that there will be no more subsidy or franchises until ATP is installed as soon as possible on every line.


Labour faces the political fallout of NHS pay scandal

I RECENTLY attended an “awayday” for MSF union reps in the health service in Yorkshire. During the discussions people expressed anger and contempt for the government. There were reports of increasing numbers of workers who are refusing to pay the political levy to the Labour Party out of their union subs. This feeling has been fuelled by the recent NHS pay deal, when Alan Milburn-Labour’s health secretary and MSF member-threatened to exclude the union from important negotiations if a grotty three-year pay deal was not accepted.

This has led to a union branch calling for Alan Milburn to be sacked and financial support to be withdrawn from his constituency. Unfortunately the national MSF negotiators succumbed to the government’s blackmail. They accepted the pay deal without full consultation with the members.

A number of union reps at the awayday said their members wanted to take industrial action but were not confident enough to do this without the support of their union leaders. NHS workers feel sickened and betrayed. More than this, they are ready to fight. It is time the union leaders called for strike action.

  • MSF MEMBER, Yorkshire

Bush stalks next victim

THE CASE of Brian (Bomani) Roberson, on death row in Texas, has been featured regularly in Socialist Worker. He now faces execution on 9 August.

This state-sanctioned murder will feature as part of presidential candidate George Bush Junior’s attempt to show he is strong on crime. Bush is the governor of Texas, the death row capital of the US. Bomani was arrested in 1986 and charged with murder. His friend, arrested with him, died in police custody the same night.

Bomani signed a pre-written confession after 14 hours interrogation. He later retracted this in court. An all-white jury found this black man guilty, and he was sentenced to death.

When Brian was nine his father was stabbed to death by a white man. The killer received a light sentence and an early release. There are signs that the tide is turning against the death penalty in the US. We must redouble our protests over Bomani’s fate.

Rush messages of support to Richard Anderson, Attorney at Law, 2414 N Akard, Suite 70, Dallas, Texas 75201, US. E-mail Wayne Scott, executive director of Texas department of criminal justice: [email protected]

  • SIMON SHAW, East London

Corgis are better off than OAPs

I CANNOT be the only person who was utterly sickened by the pomp and expense of the Queen Mother’s pageant last week. How can it be that one pensioner is showered with every luxury possible while the rest of us are told to be grateful for 75p a week extra and a bit of heating allowance?

My guess is that one of the royal corgis enjoys more holidays and less stress than the average pensioner in Britain. Older people are supposed to be particularly supportive of the monarchy. I am 78 and have absolutely no fellow feeling with these parasites at the top of our society. Scrap the lot of them and use the money for something useful.

  • AGNES WILSON, Manchester

We should all have been out

IT IS absolutely correct, as Socialist Worker suggests, that other London postal workers would have come out on strike recently in support of their colleagues at NDO if they had been asked by the union leaders.

At our office we are determined to resist the attacks on conditions which have been ushered in by the Way Forward deal. The NDO strike was a chance for everyone in London to stand up and show that we will not be pushed around. It is highly regrettable that this did not happen. I cannot guarantee there would have been a 100 percent response to a strike call, but I am certain there would have been 90 percent. It would have been a highly effective strike.

One of the interesting aspects of the extension of e-commerce is that there are now more firms dependent on the Post Office to get their catalogues and goods delivered. The NDO dispute reinforces the need for those of us who want resistance to get organised and to coordinate our response to Royal Mail.

  • CWU MEMBER, Central London

Pokmon arrest

A PUPIL at the secondary school where I teach in south London has suffered a horrendous experience at the hands of the police. He was arrested and is awaiting charges over an incident involving the alleged theft of six Pokmon cards.

Eight police turned up on his family’s doorstep about the matter. His mother asked if this was in some way linked to Jack Straw’s attempt to clear up crime on estates and was told, “Yes, it’s an experiment.” The police have been inquiring over this matter for a month. They said they might arrest him at school.

He is now truanting and is facing other difficulties. The boy, who is white, was also told by police to stay away from his black friend. It is a disgrace that the police treat young people and families in this way. They would never do the same in rich areas-or to parents in 10 Downing Street.

  • DAVE CLINCH, South London

Tenants angry

MY EXPERIENCE should give a warning to anyone who is transferred from council control to a housing association landlord. Our estate in east London is now run by Clapton Community Housing Trust (CCHT) instead of Hackney council.

Our family of seven has recently been offered a different property by CCHT. The trust had promised much better service than under the old system. But the reality was different. Several of the rooms have deep cracks in the walls and floors, plaster is crumbling off the walls and there are protruding nails in one floor. My 22 month old daughter was injured by one of these nails.

  • EFFIE TUITT, East London

Numbers not whole story

MARK BORN (Letters, 15 July) suggested that Socialist Worker was hypocritical because it praised a demo of 7,000 in defence of refugees but attacked the much larger march by the Countryside Alliance. A demonstration of 7,000 is significant considering the amount of anti-refugee propaganda that’s flung at us every single day from every national newspaper.

It shows that despite the hatred whipped up by the Tories and New Labour, people are beginning to realise that what Labour is doing is sheer racist scapegoating.

Issues such as pro-hunting attracted larger numbers because the toffs that support hunting spread lies that it will ruin jobs. Rural workers, naturally afraid of losing their only means of support, join the demo, but not for any real desire to keep an outdated blood sport.

Right wing campaigns can attract larger numbers because, as Marx rightly argued, “The prevailing ideas of society are the ideas of the ruling class.”

  • ALEX LAIDLAW, South London

Get ready for Prague

I WAS tremendously inspired to hear at Marxism 2000 earlier this month about the anti-capitalist mood which is now growing into a worldwide movement. London, Seattle, Millau, and now Prague.

I haven’t been on a demo in years (being slightly physically challenged), but I’m going to Prague in September and so is almost everyone I know. I hope we’ll be carrying with us a dynamite Socialist Worker pamphlet on how to fight global capitalism and win! Might I suggest as a title the brilliant Seattle slogan “Teamsters and turtles together at last”?

What a recipe! Put together the people who are fighting global capitalism, and the people with the power to defeat global capitalism, and look out Prague! Here we come!

  • SUSIE HELME, North London

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance