Monday, 11 February 2013

Danger on East Coast Mainline

RAIL UNION RMT today released a shocking new picture which shows six inches of rail head crumbled away to nothing leaving a potentially lethal gap in the track on the InterCity East Coast Mainline at Hambleton South Junction near Selby where normal running speeds are 125mph. The picture, taken last Friday (1st February), follows the publication by RMT of a similar damning photo taken at Colton Junction on the ECML just a few miles away back in December last year. 

RMT believes that due to renewals and staffing cuts, an initial crack had crumbled away to a six inch gap in the rail head over a period of two weeks in a mirror image of the incident at Colton Junction, leaving trains, passengers and staff at risk of a serious and potentially lethal incident. A train could have derailed, jumped the tracks and collided with an on-coming service. Fortunately, the gap was spotted by on-track teams and the section of track has since been replaced but it raises serious questions about the impact of wear and tear on rail infrastructure, with high-speed trains running on tracks that should have been renewed, in a climate of cuts and sub-contracting.

RMT understands that there is massive pressure to keep the ECML running from the government and the Department of Transport as they look to re-privatise the service. There are also persistent demands on Network Rail from the budget-holder, the Office of Rail Regulation, to cut back on rail renewals work despite the potentially-lethal consequences as exposed in graphic detail by RMT today.

However, pressure from RMT and a high-profile media campaign by the union, has forced RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) to now launch a full investigation into the condition of the track on the ECML, the latest shocking RMT pictures will fuel the urgency of that investigation which the union says must focus in on the impact of cuts to staffing and renewals and the consequences of sub-contracting core functions.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
'This shocking new picture highlights the reality on Britain's railways today - staffing, inspections and track renewals have been cut in the dash to save money and there is massive pressure right from the top of Government to keep services running at all costs regardless of the potential human cost. If we don’t reverse the cuts on Britain’s railways another major tragedy is inevitable.

'We are now facing exactly the same set of poisonous conditions that lead us to the Hatfield disaster and as this picture, following on from similar evidence exposed by RMT late last year, shows we are dicing with death and risking another major rail tragedy. RMT is demanding action before it is too late and the RAIB investigation must look at the poisonous impact of cuts to staffing and renewals work and the sub-contracting of jobs that should be undertaken in-house.

'RMT has made it crystal clear that we want all cuts to staffing, maintenance and renewals reversed and all track works brought back in house rather than subbed-out to contractors. The current contractor staff should be transferred over to direct Network Rail employment. We also want the pressure from the centre to run services at any costs lifted to enable safety-critical works to take place immediately.

'Finally, we want an end to the further cuts proposed by the Government in its McNulty Rail Review before we end up with another rail tragedy on Britain's tracks with ministers paraded on our screens with blood on their hands. Those ministers have to take responsibility right now for the rail scandal that is unfolding on their watch'.

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