Unsafe rail sell-off

RAIL PRIVATISATION is seriously damaging rail safety. Who says so? Railtrack’s senior manager in charge of safety. Where did he say so? In an internal memo. Why did he say so? Because of three separate incidents - two in Bow in London and one in Scotland. Signals that should have displayed red were showing ‘proceed’, thereby creating the conditions for a collision.

This is the same condition that caused the catastrophic crash at Clapham Junction.

What was Railtrack’s and the government’s response? They both said in simultaneously released press statements that nothing was wrong. Railtrack’s public relations company stated that internal memos should be toned down to avoid future embarrassment. So the old public railway culture of safety and learning from incidents has been replaced with the private business culture of damage limitation and cover-up.

Hot on the heels of this revelation came the news that the government wants to sell Railtrack’s safety directorate early as a separate concern, divorcing safety even further from those responsible for its practical implementation.

This reorganisation has put back Railtrack’s sale, since the new set-up will need safety validation.

Following this the government announced that the prestige sale of Intercity West Coast had been cancelled, because its line infrastructure is collapsing and the money to renew has not been forthcoming from the private sector.

Ivor Warbirton, managing director of Intercity West Coast and enthusiastic privateer, was seen at Manchester Piccadilly station, head bowed and extremely crestfallen. Looking for his share options which had just crashed through the floor, no doubt.

The very latest revelation has been the government’s rejection of the shortlist of candidates for the position of chairman of the Rail Users Consultative Committee to replace Major General Lennox Napier, who is retiring.

The reason? None of the candidates could be relied upon not to criticise rail privatisation. The whole privatisation project is fast coming apart at the seams.

Manchester Aslef driver