Northern Line: Unity and Action Protects Safety

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Sun, 16/10/2005 - 11:19,

The last few weeks’ events on the Northern line have shown three important things: PPP is a safety disaster; it is Tube workers, not management, who care about safety; and that if we stand firm, we can win.

PPP = Disaster for Safety

PPP was supposed to deliver improvements and an effective maintenance regime for the Tube. But no. Whilst TubeLines makes (robs, more like) £1million profit per week, it can’t even ensure something as basic as the emergency braking system working properly!

TubeLines, of course, would say that it is Alstom’s fault, thinking that because the Infraco outsources the actual work to a contractor, it also outsources the responsibility.

And there’s the problem. If you fragment the railway, separating infrastructure from operations and allowing sub-contracting, and if you hand over maintenance to private companies motivated by profit, then this is the result.
PPP must be abandoned, and all the work brought back into an integrated, publicly-owned London Underground.

Who Cares?

We all know the possible consequences if the tripcock system does not work. The failures so far have not caused disasters, because they happened during tests or while applying the rule. But imagine if a train had gone through a red, and just carried on going … perhaps straight into the back of the train ahead.

And yet management thought they could continue to run a service! It was only concerted pressure and action from drivers and our unions that made them concede first to double-crewing, then to suspend the service.
Anyone would think that LUL was fixated on train miles, and the private companies on avoiding financial penalties!

Who cares about safety? We do!

Stand Firm And Win

The company was finally forced to take meaningful action ie. suspend the service, when Northern Line drivers refused to take the trains out. But what was management’s first reaction? Send four drivers home without pay!
Not for the first time (remember the FBU dispute?) management punished Tube workers for exercising our legal right (and moral obligation) to protect ourselves, our colleagues and our passengers. But other drivers refused to be intimidated and also refused to drive.

RMT and ASLEF held a joint press conference and announced a joint ballot for industrial action – the sort of unity that we always like to see! Faced with this, LUL backed down, paid the drivers and suspended the service.

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