Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 20 October 2005

Courts fail to tackle rail dangers

PRIVATISATION OF public transport has consistently put profits before safety and the courts say they can do very little about it. The Crown Prosecution Service now says there's no "realistic prospect of conviction" of privatised rail company executives on manslaughter charges over the Potters Bar disaster in May 2002.

The crash killed seven people after a train from Kings Cross derailed due to a defective set of points. Investigators found that four nuts meant to hold together key components of the points had gone missing. This caused the points to change direction as the train thundered over at 100 mph.

Jarvis, the notorious privateer, cut corners to save cash and completely failed in its duty to maintain the track. They accepted liability last year but as with the Hatfield crash, the executives will face no consequences.

A few weeks ago, the executives of Jarvis' fellow privateers Balfour Beatty escaped real penalties for their involvement in the Hatfield rail crash in 2000. They too failed to repair cracked rails that led to a fatal derailment. Five Balfour Beatty executives walked free when corporate manslaughter charges failed.

A few weeks later they were fined 10 million which was made meaningless when the firm was offered juicy privatisation contracts in the same week!

If the courts cannot or will not take action against the greedy rail fat cats, rail workers certainly can do as our next story, below, shows.

London Underground......

We struck for safety - and won

WORKERS ON London Underground's Northern Line took strike action on 12 October to protect both workers' and passengers' safety. They succeeded in making management put right a dangerous fault in emergency stopping equipment. A Northern Line driver explains why they struck for safety.

NORTHERN LINE signals are fitted with train stops that are in the 'up' position when the signal is at danger (red). This works in conjunction with a trip cock at the front of the train. When this is operated, safety brakes are applied.

On five occasions in the past six weeks, a trip cock has only partially applied and then reset itself when travelling at low speed. After the fourth occurrence the unions, RMT and ASLEF, demanded that trains be double-staffed and fixed train stops situated at two points on the line in order to trip all trains to prove the trip cocks were working.

This was done but many drivers felt the whole fleet should be withdrawn until this serious defect was rectified.

They did not believe management's assurance that this defect wouldn't happen again if they changed the reset cord's diameter and carried out other cosmetic changes to the trip-cock cabinet. They were also angry at the slow response to the safety issue.

These drivers made a stand and refused to drive trains. Management tried to intimidate them but they stood their ground. Then when a further instance occurred to a train with a modified reset cord, all drivers said "enough is enough".

Management tried to nip any further action in the bud by sending four drivers home without pay. Of course this inflamed the situation and the protest spread.

Next morning, 13 October, nothing moved. The drivers' action was vindicated when, after a meeting with the unions, London Underground (LU) issued a Regulatory Notice taking out the Northern Line fleet until all trip cocks had been modified. These modifications mean that if a train is part tripped and then reset the brakes will still come on.

When the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract started in 1997, the rolling stock maintenance was privatised and handed over to Alstom. After several failures, Alstom's maintenance regime was investigated and found to be totally inadequate.

Whilst maintenance is done by Alstom, the contract is managed by Tubelines. With the Regulatory Notice, London Underground put in their own engineers to oversee maintenance. There is strong speculation that Alstom will be stripped of their contract.

This shambles shows how disastrous tube privatisation has been. A BBC poll showed 93% of Londoners want tube privatisation reversed.

New Labour hailed the privatisation of Northern Line depots through PFI as a resounding success and the way forward for the Underground and the public sector. Flushed with success, Richard Bowker, the architect of this PFI, became the Strategic Rail Authority's director, with catastrophic results.

The Northern Line PFI has unravelled. Another contractor, Metronet plans to fragment the industry further by handing depots to Bombardier. The fleet maintenance workers are ready to resist this outsourcing. The RMT should seize the moment and bring this dispute forward.

At the RMT's last Regional Committee, fleet maintenance shop stewards reported a shocking catalogue of corner-cutting since privatisation. All these companies should be investigated and exposed, then booted off the underground.

The unions gave the go-ahead for trains to be brought back by Sunday night (16 October). Many drivers were very upset that the fixed train stops put in to test trains had been removed.

Morden depot drivers kept on refusing to drive trains until these were reinstated. Although drivers in other depots agreed with us, the union safety reps did their utmost to back up LU management on this issue, which left a sour taste.

But we all see this dispute's outcome as a victory.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 20 October 2005:

Take over the drug companies

Health service... condition critical!

Government climbs down but questions still remain

Courts fail to tackle rail dangers

Come to Socialism 2005 - defend democratic rights

Students are searching for a socialist alternative

Sleepwalking to segregation?

Poorest areas of towns and villages suffer most

Iraq: Women's rights pushed back

Strong solidarity action against Connex union-busting

Challenging 'partnership'

London bus workers reject pay offer


Home   |   The Socialist 20 October 2005   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleRMT strikes against removal of train guards spreads

triangleHow the Single Market blocks socialist policies

triangleRMT fighting for passenger safety, accessibility and security

triangleRMT and the Labour Party affiliation debate

triangleRMT condemns Welsh government rail privatisation

London underground:

triangleJustice for Tube cleaners demo

triangleConference opens debate on Labour and pledges to fight anti-union laws

triangleTube strike at London Bridge over unfair dismissal

triangleWalkout on three rail networks against driver-only operated trains


triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

triangleNo cuts - hands off King George A&E!

triangleTories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!


triangleNasty party out the Tories

triangleCWU fights court attempt to stop national strike


triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay


Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?



Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni


Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers



Balloting members on the pay cap



'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future



Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison


South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP



Uprising to save the NHS!



Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?


East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!


North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses



Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems



Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now



Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017





















Platform setting: = No platform choice