Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/180/7968
Rail's belated rush for safety
EVEN BEFORE last weekend's grim weather Britain's rail system was running at a snail's pace. Railtrack had, belatedly, started checking lines after the Hatfield rail crash.
The closures and speed restrictions on inter-city and local services throughout Britain could last into next year, causing massive delays.
This new rush for safety only comes after train crashes at Southall, Paddington and Hatfield have cost scores of lives. The private rail firms have shown their contempt for their passengers' and workforce's safety, putting bigger dividends above all else. Now they're trying to look contrite - and busy.
These hypocrites blame each other. Railtrack denounced the contractors for not repairing lines. The contractors criticised Railtrack for sending them a letter saying that they had to confirm by next day that there were no outstanding safety problems.
Last week, the main private railway owners met - for the first time since privatisation in 1994. This fragmented industry united to work out their excuses for killing rail passengers. Now the heat's on Railtrack, this fragile unity falls apart.
Transport minister John Prescott is asking the chair of the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority to tell him whether privatisation "fundamentally conflicts" with putting safety first. Why don't you ask passengers and rail staff, Mr Prescott?
They'd tell you that profit-grasping Railtrack replaces equipment so rarely that the number of broken rails has gone up by about 30% since privatisation. Railtrack has cut the number of track maintenance workers by 21%.
All privatised firms put profit before safety while fares soared up and services deteriorated sharply.
Public spending on the rail network is due to more than double to £4 billion by 2006. If working-class people are to foot the bill, the industry should be run for our needs, not the profits of a handful of fat cats.
The Socialist Says
- Bring privatised rail bosses to justice for neglecting safety in their drive for profit.
- Seize the privatised bosses' profits and reclaim all subsidies paid by the government.
- Renationalise rail and transport under democratic working-class control and management. Compensation should only be paid to shareholders on the basis of proven need.
- A massive programme of investment now to improve safety and service provision.
In The Socialist 3 November 2000: