A recent decision tells us a lot about London Underground Ltd's contemptuous attitude to passenger safety - and about the weakness of the official bodies that are supposed to pull the company up on safety issues.
In various incidents between May and October 2009, 13 members of the public were injured at Cannon Street station, tripping on an uneven step. Injuries included being knocked unconscious, cuts to the head, a broken wrist, and a broken nose. At least one person sustained injuries described as "life-changing".
The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) investigated and found that London Underground knew there was a considerable safety risk but failed to act on it. LUL pleaded guilty to breaching the 1974 Health and Safety and Work Act. And the City of London Magistrates' Court fined the company ... wait for it ... £7,000. SEVEN POXY THOUSAND POUNDS. For causing "life-changing injuries". That's roughly the equivalent of one week's wages for Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy - not that it will come out of his wages!
The ORR claims that it "will not tolerate passengers being put at unnecessary risk". If a pathetic seven grand fine is an example of the ORR not tolerating risk and the courts enforcing justice, then we'd hate to see what they would do if it took a more lenient attitude! Hand out prizes for not actually killing people, perhaps?
But although heavier fines might indicate a more serious attitude to safety, they would not in themselves be the answer. In fact, LU might simply "pay" the money by making savings elsewhere eg. on staffing levels or safety standards! Safety bodies should have - and should use - the power for compel companies to enforce safety and put improving standards above profit and money-saving.
It all goes to show that if we really want to defend passengers' and workers' safety, we need to take matters into our own hands.