Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/254/24739
Rail safety: Profit Kills, Renationalise rail now
SEVEN PEOPLE died and more than 70 were injured in the rail crash at Potters Bar on 10 May.
Only the skills of the train driver stopped the incident becoming an even worse disaster.
Government minister Stephen Byers and private rail bosses have been scattering excuses like confetti at a wedding ceremony.
It was an "isolated incident", they claim, or even "it was sabotage".
But Bob Crow, leader of the rail union RMT, says that one of his union members had told rail chiefs weeks before the fatal crash that the track around the suspect points was not in a fit state.
As the interview with a railway engineer on page 2 shows, since privatisation the number of repair workers and inspectors on the rail system has been cut to the bone. Private rail bosses have as their first priority not the travelling public's safety but making the biggest profit.
Thousands of miles of railways in Britain, including busy routes, are in poor condition. As the publicly owned British Rail was split on privatisation into 100 small competing units, Railtrack's main contractors let out work to sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors.
By the end of 2000, there were 2,000 registered rail infrastructure companies with 84,000 registered temporary workers.
Track staff, permanent workers who knew their local lines, were nearly halved to about 15,000. This system has failed totally.
What has six years of rail privatisation meant for workers in Britain?
A rail system with Europe's worst record on safety. Unsafe, unreliable trains charging passengers sky-high prices. Fat-cat directors paid huge dividends out of massive government subsidies. Rail workers sacked or paid badly.
Privatisation Has Ruined Rail Safety
- Put privatised rail bosses in the dock for neglecting safety in their drive for profit.
- Renationalise rail and transport under the democratic control and management of the workers and users of the rail industry. Compensation should only be paid to shareholders on the basis of proven need.
- A massive programme of public investment now to improve rail safety and service provision.
- Rail unions to take action including strikes to force re-nationalisation of the railways onto the agenda and stop PPP privatisation on London's underground.
In The Socialist 17 May 2002: