London Underground: How Workers Made The Bosses Listen

ON FRIDAY night, 17 October the Piccadilly Line of London Underground had a cracked running rail that it was estimated had been broken for four or five months. A Piccadilly Line driver spoke to the socialist.

“The following Sunday I spoke to the health and safety rep at Acton Town. He said that, in his opinion, the whole line could not have been checked to see whether it was fit to drive between the Friday night and the Saturday morning when they reopened the whole line.

“When we heard that, about a dozen of us wrote to management saying that, for safety reasons, we would only be taking trains out at caution speed. As soon as it became apparent that trains were only running between 10mph and 15mph they were putting those trains into sidings at depots.


“This certainly disrupted the service and made management aware of how angry we were. Before it was like they wanted to eradicate it from history. Nothing had been put out by management – on notice boards or anything – but our action forced them to get their chief safety person down to discuss with us personally.

“It forced the management to give us reassurances – we weren’t totally reassured by this but we thought our point had been made. They’re now putting speed restrictions on the lines.

“Since PPP (privatisation) things have got worse. One of the Infracos took over in January and the other in April and since privatisation there have been four derailments on the Underground. That was unheard of over five years let alone ten months.

“They’ve cut down on track inspections and the Permanent Way workers are so pushed with the amount of work they have to do that inevitably inspections are less thorough. It’s not the workers’ fault – there’s not enough manpower to do the job.


“This section of track in Hammersmith was cracking from below due to things like poor maintenance of the ballast underneath the rails. Private companies are only interested in profits not in investment in the infrastructure of the tubes, which are in a poor state.

“Angry Tube workers now want action. We met with the RMT leadership at Unity House and got promises of action.

“Unfortunately Shaun Brady, new general secretary of the other rail union ASLEF, has refused to condemn PPP – he just said we needed more investment from the private sector. Well we do need new investment but we want rid of the PPP system as well.”