12 January 2015
RMT Press Office
Rail union RMT today stepped up demands for urgent Government action to end the shocking practice of train companies dumping human sewage on the railway tracks as the issue has once again been catapulted up the political agenda with BBC’s “Inside Out” tonight highlighting the fact that one in ten trains are still dumping human waste on the tracks and that exposure to the excrement has serious health implications for rail workers.
Last year, RMT learnt from a series of questions tabled by members of the union’s Parliamentary Group that Ministers and officials haven’t a clue as to how much excrement is sprayed around the rail network every year.
As well as the shocking admission that the Government have no idea what volume of human waste is being dumped on our railways the questions also reveal that:
• A quarter of trains with toilets on board don’t have retention tanks and are discharging raw sewage.
• Services on the Great Eastern, Great Western, Midland and East Coast main lines are served by trains which discharge effluent to the track.
• Local and regional services in East Anglia, Wales, Scotland, the East and West midlands, the North and South West of England are also involved in the practice.
• The Government has confirmed that there is no statutory protection for track workers or passengers from these discharges.
• There is no formal or legal requirement to stop train operating companies from discharging toilet waste on to the track or to force rolling stock leasing companies to retrofit controlled emission toilets to those trains that currently discharge waste to the track.
Track workers have repeatedly pointed out that some sections of the rail infrastructure are like an open sewer and that the human waste doesn’t simply hit the track bed, it sprays out when trains are travelling at speed posing a serious and disgusting health risk to track-based staff. Rail works have been delayed because staff have been confronted with pools of raw sewage.
Other staff in the train depots are forced to scrape the excrement from the bottom of carriages. The whole disgusting practice continues simply because the train companies and the Government are not prepared to invest a slice of their excessive profits in installing tanks and employing the staff to empty them.
Instead, they offer vague promises that the scandal will be addressed years down the line when long-delayed fleet replacement plans are eventually delivered. In the meantime, the filthy and disgusting practice continues unchecked.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“It is truly appalling as we move into 2015 that this Government still cannot even tell us what volume of raw and untreated sewage is being dumped at railway stations and on railway tracks the length and breadth of Britain creating both disgusting conditions and a health risk for staff and the public alike.
"It is a shocking indictment on the state of our railways 20 years after privatisation, and with hundreds of millions of pounds a year being creamed off in private profits, that unknown amounts of raw sewage are being dumped and sprayed across the tracks up and down the UK with the Government unable to even tell us when it will stop. Ministers have branded the system as “disgusting” but has not lifted a finger to end it. That is why RMT has repeatedly called on the government to take urgent action and we are reissuing that call today.
"Not only is this a filthy way of disposing of human waste, but it also poses real health risks and dangers for RMT members out there working on the tracks and in the depots.
“There is no point the Government politely requesting that the private train companies desist, they are the one’s profiting out of this scandal by allowing it to continue in the full knowledge that it is both dangerous and disgusting.
"This rotten practice should be stopped once and for all and the train companies should be the forced by the Government to pay the price for upgrading the trains and employing staff to empty the tanks."