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From The Socialist newspaper, 24 May 2002

Take Back Rail

OVER A week after the fatal rail crash at Potters Bar, government ministers are still trying to limit the damage to their pro-privatisation policies.

Speaking at the train drivers' union ASLEF's annual conference, New Labour transport secretary Stephen Byers said he'd "improve the way that the rail network is maintained".

He spoke of "fundamental change" to get better maintenance including a new safety culture. He talked about looking at improving the selection process of contractors and at the role of sub-contractors working on maintenance.

But he made no mention of the harmful role of privatisation, of the private rail bosses who put increasing their profits as their main priority. Everything is subordinated to profit, including the safety of the travelling public and of workers in the rail industry.

Railtrack contractors could face criminal charges after an inquest ruled that Michael Mungovan, a student who had been working on the railway track in London, had been "unlawfully killed" in October 2000.

An employment agency sent him to work for contractors Balfour Beatty. Michael's friends claim that he didn't get sufficient training before starting the job. Poor training and too little supervision can be seen everywhere on Britain's railways.

The Daily Mirror reported this week on a ten-mile length of track between London and Colchester, maintained by Balfour Beatty. It shows that there were ten potentially dangerous defects ranging from missing bolts to severe cracking.

After privatisation, the bosses cut their core, experienced permanent workforce so much that inspection was downplayed. This totally compromised the safety of passengers and workforce alike.

Byers' favoured solution to this disaster is to reward contractors with longer contracts! The rail unions, RMT, ASLEF and TSSA, should organise demonstrations and strikes if necessary to get their industry taken back into public ownership.

More on the perils of rail privatisation

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In The Socialist 24 May 2002:

Take Back Rail

Bush And Blair's War Plans Increase World Tensions

The Truth About PFI

Step Up The Struggle For Free Education

Rail privatisation exposed

Irish election: Socialist Party Scores Spectacular Successes

New War Threat Looms Over Kashmir Conflict

Firefighters Prepare For Pay Battle


 

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