Updates & News

Submitted by Janine on 20 July, 2005 - 9:42
  • Steve Hedley: back at work
  • ASLEF wins on safety
  • The Tesco Tunnel
  • Network Rail goes private?

Back to Work

Steve Hedley is back working for Westinghouse having won his fight against victimisation (reported last October in Off The Rails).

Steve organised pickets of the work site, at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. He also helped other workers get unionised and oppose draconian new contracts.

It was grass-roots action and solidarity that won Steve his job back. Along with his determination, even when his own union's head office was suggesting he look for another job!

Union Wins on Safety

A quick and forthright response by ASLEF was enough to see off a recent attack on safety by Network Rail and some TOCs. It concerned an item in WON 51 (Weekly Operating Notice) telling train drivers they could operate normally in axle counter areas when the GSM-R radio fails.

This was obviously dangerous nonsense: GSM-R is a vital part of the safety case that makes axle counters an acceptable basis for the signalling system. Following calls from local reps ASLEF head office countered this by instructing drivers to terminate at the last station prior to entering a GSM-R area. There was no need to ballot as this was a health and safety issue.

Result: a new instruction for dealing with GSM-R failure which included a blanket speed restriction of 40mph.

Tesco Tunnel

A driver and his trainful of passengers narrowly escaped death when the infamous 'Tesco tunnel' collapsed. On the evening of 30th June, hundreds of tonnes of concrete crashed onto the track at Gerrard's Cross, and the 19:03 Marylebone - High Wycombe service stopped just in time.

Tesco is building a £20m superstore above the railway. John 'Two Jags' Prescott approved the project five years ago, despite massive opposition from local residents. Anyone would think that he cares more about commercial interests than about people's opinions. We are sure it has nothing at all to do with Tesco donating money to New Labour.

Going Private

Network Rail could be on its way back into the private sector - starting on Merseyside. NR plans to transfer signalling and maintenance grades to Merseyrail next March.

If it gets away with it, you can bet the process will spread around the country. Then we'll be back to a fully-privatised railway. To make matters worse, signallers will work for a patchwork of different companies, and we can imagine the disasters that could lead to.

RMT's AGM voted unanimously to ballot for strike action to stop this. Let's hope that this is not just sabre-rattling, and that we have a determination - and a strategy - to win.

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