Bob Crow blows it

Bob Crow’s performance on the steps of the High Court after losing the court case over the legality of the strike suggest that he does not have the interests of his members or the industry at heart. For him to say that there has been ‘accident after accident’ on the railways is quite simply a disgrace. Ill-informed members of the public may well take him at face value, and worry about travelling on the railways when, in fact, as he well knows, the railways are safer than at any time in their history and just one person has been killed in a railway accident in nearly eight years. Meanwhile, nine people a day die on the roads, to which Bob Crow’s fear tactics will send countless extra people.

He has really blown it this time, demonstrating that the strike is all about politics and narrow interests rather than about safety or even his members’ future in the industry.

I have been rebuked by a couple of RMT members for being sceptical about the union’s use of the safety card to garner support for their action. Having talked to people on all sides of the dispute, and having received emails from several railway workers, I still can’t see any justification for the fears expressed about safety.

Yes, the Office of Rail Regulation did express some concerns about the changes to the maintenance programme, but in a second letter to Iain Coucher, these have been allayed. As I have mentioned before, I am a union member, I write a column for a union newspaper and am totally supportive of workers’ rights to organise. Indeed, the maintenance workers may well have a good case for getting a better deal for the changes being foisted upon them by management.

But to speak, as Bob Crow did, is nothing short of scandalous. There has not been ‘accident after accident’ on the railways and, indeed, the series of accidents that did occur were not down to the lack of staff but, rather, the way the industry was privatised in a great rush, poor management and mistakes by individual workers.

If there are any RMT members who can point to dangerous changes being imposed by Network Rail, please comment on this blog.

  • Greg. Tingey

    NOT an RMT member
    But
    I am seriously worried about the weekend working proposals, being put forward by NR, as affecting the safe working by tired and overstretched people.
    That’s how we got Clapham Junction, after all …..

  • Jonny

    I think what Bob was trying to express is that if safety inspections are scaled back and experienced staff made redundant, there maybe a repeat of some of the rail disasters of previous years.
    I would also point out that the reason there has not been any major accidents over the past 8 years is because of the frequency of inspections and the calbre of the staff carrying them out, now NR wants to scale them back.
    For what reason over than financial are these decisions made?
    Bob Crow is the man the media love to hate but he was right about the privatisation of the railways and the PPP.
    I respect your point of view Christian but on this one, I think you’ve got it wrong.

  • Cogidubnus

    As a transport professional of 35 years standing I can assure you the guy’s a prat…no respect…nothing else…just a total c***….sorry about the language…but he doiesn’t deserve more…

  • RapidAssistant

    Not sure if you folks down south have heard much about this – but up here in Scotland there has already been a pointless industrial dispute going on – again instigated by the RMT – regarding the provision of guards on the new Airdrie-Bathgate line that is reopening at the end of the year.

    In a nutshell – two suburban commuter lines (Glasgow-Airdrie and Edinburgh-Bathgate) are being joined together again by reinstating a section of closed line, thus creating a fourth through route between the two cities. Both routes are currently driver-only operated, but the RMT is arguing that this now makes it an inter-city route and therefore guards are now required, and that driver-only operation will compromise safety. Utter nonsense of course, given that the existing Glasgow-Edinburgh via Shotts, and the Glasgow-Edinburgh via Carstairs (using large chunks of the WCML for crying out loud!) are also one man operated!

    So far there already has been one strike a couple of weekends ago and it is still grinding on. Again – evidence of a strike with no safety case whatsoever, but the hidden agenda behind it is clear for all and sundry to see.

  • Signaller X

    I am a signaller and a member of the RMT, but Bob Crow’s comments, particularly about “accident after accident”, make me ashamed to be associated with the RMT. Hopefully it will show people what his true colours really are and that he cares little about our industry.

    I joined the railway five years ago after working in another industry, and was immediately struck by the “them and us” attitude between signallers and management in my area. The RMT seem intent on perpetuating this situation, stoking up any bad feelings as much as possible. Bob Crow’s comment that the vote for a strike was a “victory” says it all. How can a decision to go on strike be a “victory” for any of us?

    I am quite willing to vote for strike, and take strike action, for the right reasons, but the issues on which we were balloted were of minor significance in my opinion, and had nothing to do with the loss of maintenance jobs or safety issues as Bob Crow and some of the media would have us believe, (the changes to engineer’s possession arrangemants had already been withdrawn by Network Rail). Remember a narrow majority OF THOSE THAT VOTED voted for a strike, that is a minority of signallers in total, around 37% according to the figures I have read. Hopefully there will be a higher turnout in the re-ballot.

  • Derek L

    There have not been significant passenger fatalities, but there have been PW worker injuries and fatalities over the last 8 years. If that is what Bob Crow was referring to (and I accept he may not have been), he should have said so.

    He gave an abysmal interview on Radio 4 Friday morning following the court decision. I think what he was getting at was that RMT had balloted the signallers in accordance with information from NR – the ballots go to the signallers’ home addresses and are supervised by the Electoral Reform Society – so ballots don’t go to burned down signal boxes, and are not subject to “rigging” by RMT.

    It is not clear to me whether that is the point – the judgment in the case has not yet been published – but if it is, Bob Crow managed to put it over ineptly. He had a relatively sympathetic John Humphreys to deal with, and managed to screw it up by being obfuscatory and then aggressive.

  • Signaller X

    @Derek L: If Bob Crow was referring to Permanent Way worker injuries surely he would not be so opposed to Network Rail using their measurement train to inspect and record the track, rather than having PW staff walking the tracks, often “red zone” when trains are still running normally. His argument is that a person on the track is more likely to see defects on the embankment, or holes in fencing, but in my experience that sort of problem is usually seen and reported by train drivers. Weekly patrolling on foot is much more dangerous than using the NR measurement train in my opinion.

  • Angus

    @RapidAssistant: Sorry but your statement that “Both routes are currently driver-only operated” is a load of rubbish!

    Glasgow-Airdire has been Driver operated for the past 20-something years. Edinburgh – Bathgate IS NOT DRIVER OPERATED! Conductors currently work this route and there is strong support for a second member of staff on the trains (which may not always be the case).

    RMT could have agreed on a compromise with conductors retaining status, but being relieved of door duties.

    However ScotRail really doesn’t care, they are being compensated by the Scottish Gov’t. for the strikes providing First prove they have taken all reasonable measures t prevent it, which means that ‘token’ meetings could take place, with no real constructive conversation at all.

  • RapidAssistant

    Angus – whatever the exact ins and outs are is inconsequential IMHO.

    The point is that the Airdrie-Bathgate dispute is another example of the RMT using “safety” as another way of stirring things up and flexing its muscle for the sheer hell of it.

    There is absolutely NO safety case whatsoever on a low-moderate speed commuter route on whether doors are operated by the driver or the conductor.

  • Edinburgh rail campaigner

    # 4 RapidAssisatnt – I’m afraid that much of what you have written above is simply untrue.
    Driver Only Operation (DOO) is currently confined to the Strathclyde area – and even there does not apply to all SPT rail services.
    The Edinburgh-Bathgate service has both a driver and a guard – and it’s the proposal to remove the guard from this section of the new through route via Airdrie to Glasgow which has given rise to the current dispute.
    Both the First ScotRail service via Shotts (analagous to the new Airdrie-Bathgate route) and the East Coast and Cross Country services via Carstairs are also crewed by both a driver and a guard (different companies call guards different names these days but the Rule Book is quite clear that guard is the official common title to be used).
    DOO in the SPT area has been around for 20-odd years now – but often means that the only crew member onboard is the driver (despite a contractual requirement to have a ticket examiner under the terms of the award of the franchise to First by the Scottish Government). In any case, ticket examiners (TEs) – the second crew member proposed under DOO to Bathgate – are there to say whether your ticket is valid or not and to essentially carry out a retail role. TEs are not operational staff.
    If there’s an accident then guards are fully trained re. evacuation, contacting emergency services, getting the overhead supply switched off, etc. – that’s a valuable additional safety role to the retail role that guards also have.
    Transport Scotland are the body really driving DOO – and have indicated that the revived line to Galashiels and the central Borders will also be DOO as well as the main Edinburgh-Glasgow via Falkirk High line once it’s electrified.
    There are just over 500 guards on First ScotRail. Assuming that they all became TEs instead, the revenue saving per annum would only be around £2.5 million – that less than half of one percent of the First ScotRail budget. In the bigger picture, it’s really not a significant saving.
    As for the one-off capital cost of converting existing DOO stock for guard operation, this is said to amount to £1.4 million. It’s a bit hard to believe.
    Still, since trains are frequently cascaded throughout their working life of 30 years or more, all trains coming into service in Britain should be built with the potential for operation by a guard. To do so when these are being built – as should be the case with the class 380s being built now in Germany – costs hardly anything extra. It’s a bit like putting in a couple of extra sockets when rewiring your home. Cheap if you do it at the time. Expensive and messy if you decide to do it later.
    All in all, then, the current dispute has a safety element at the heart of it. The safety case is certainly stronger than the cost case being advanced by Transport Scotland.

  • Edinburgh rail campaigner

    # 4 RapidAssistant – I’m afraid that much of what you have written above is simply untrue.
    Driver Only Operation (DOO) is currently confined to the Strathclyde area – and even there does not apply to all SPT rail services.
    The Edinburgh-Bathgate service has both a driver and a guard – and it’s the proposal to remove the guard from this section of the new through route via Airdrie to Glasgow which has given rise to the current dispute.
    Both the First ScotRail service via Shotts (analagous to the new Airdrie-Bathgate route) and the East Coast and Cross Country services via Carstairs are also crewed by both a driver and a guard (different companies call guards different names these days but the Rule Book is quite clear that guard is the official common title to be used).
    DOO in the SPT area has been around for 20-odd years now – but often means that the only crew member onboard is the driver (despite a contractual requirement to have a ticket examiner under the terms of the award of the franchise to First by the Scottish Government). In any case, ticket examiners (TEs) – the second crew member proposed under DOO to Bathgate – are there to say whether your ticket is valid or not and to essentially carry out a retail role. TEs are not operational staff.
    If there’s an accident then guards are fully trained re. evacuation, contacting emergency services, getting the overhead supply switched off, etc. – that’s a valuable additional safety role to the retail role that guards also have.
    Transport Scotland are the body really driving DOO – and have indicated that the revived line to Galashiels and the central Borders will also be DOO as well as the main Edinburgh-Glasgow via Falkirk High line once it’s electrified.
    There are just over 500 guards on First ScotRail. Assuming that they all became TEs instead, the revenue saving per annum would only be around £2.5 million – that less than half of one percent of the First ScotRail budget. In the bigger picture, it’s really not a significant saving.
    As for the one-off capital cost of converting existing DOO stock for guard operation, this is said to amount to £1.4 million. It’s a bit hard to believe.
    Still, since trains are frequently cascaded throughout their working life of 30 years or more, all trains coming into service in Britain should be built with the potential for operation by a guard. To do so when these are being built – as should be the case with the class 380s being built now in Germany – costs hardly anything extra. It’s a bit like putting in a couple of extra sockets when rewiring your home. Cheap if you do it at the time. Expensive and messy if you decide to do it later.
    All in all, then, the current dispute has a safety element at the heart of it. The safety case is certainly stronger than the cost case being advanced by Transport Scotland.

  • Delboy

    I’ve given 2 fingers to anything Bob Crow has said since LTS Rail went 1 man op.
    He stood outside Fenchurch St. station telling everyone that doing away with guards was dangerous and has used such scaremongering ever since.
    Funny how once LTS guaranteed no compulsary redundancies of guards & a big pay rise for drivers the public safety issue he had been banging on about evapourated!
    Its all politics with Bob, his socialist (communist?) views can be seen on YouTube at a pro Cuba rally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxS5eVhFBTU

  • RapidAssistant

    Edinburgh rail campaigner – I think the fact that the RMT has now quietly abandoned its campaign of industrial action says it all really.

    Now they are trying to mount a legal challenge based on some technicality in the franchise terms…given the bad blood and ill feeling that has been created by the four strikes so far, makes you wonder why the RMT didn’t try this option to begin with.

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