TWENTY-THREE YEARS after 31 lives were lost in the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster, RMT say that Government policy is in danger of dragging the railways closer towards the same cocktail of conditions that lead to tragedy on 5th October 1999.
Ladbroke Grove was one of a number of disasters under the watch of the privatised Railtrack, ultimately leading to its abolition and creation of the publicly owned company, Network Rail.
However, RMT is warning that casualisation, a myriad of contractors, long-hours and fatigue – all driven by cuts on the railway – has turned the clock back.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “RMT will never allow those responsible to forget that privatised Railtrack, and the drive to cut corners in the name of profit, led to the disaster at Ladbroke Grove and the wholly preventable loss of life.
“Privatisation, fragmentation and a complete absence of corporate responsibility were at the heart of the tragedy.
"The proliferation of private agencies and contractors, often employing casual staff on zero hours contracts is rapidly dragging us back to the edge.
"The contingency staff utilised by employers during official trade union strike action are often undertrained and inexperienced."
On the current national rail dispute which will see RMT strike action on Saturday 8 October, Mr Lynch added:
“Now, faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, RMT has no choice but to defend our members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.
"The Cullen Inquiry into Ladbroke Grove highlighted the safety critical role of the guard and yet we are still having to fight the battle to stop driver only operations on the railway.
"We will use every tool at our disposal to both defend our members industrially and keep safety at the top of the agenda while demanding the renationalisation of our railways.
"This is only way to guarantee a safe railway for passengers and rail staff."