Union balloted members over imposed changes that would endanger drivers and passengers

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Tube drivers in London have voted overwhelmingly by a margin of four to one for action short of a strike in a dispute over safety.

The ballot was over the imposition of new working practices that the RMT feels are dangerous to drivers and passengers.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “We have demanded an end to the reckless policy of expecting drivers to override door failsafe systems after a potentially fatal incident in which a passenger jumped from a moving train and another was caught in its open doors. Despite that the ‘sensitive edge’ procedures, along with a whole bunch of other unsafe procedures, are being bulldozed through in the dash for cuts, and to cover up the impact of reductions in station staff, under the guise of ‘operational effectiveness’.

“It’s our members who have to deal with the consequences of these ill-conceived policies. We have tried to get LUL to see sense, but they have continued to put cash and job cuts ahead of passenger safety and we had no choice but to ballot for action to put a stop to these dangerous proposals being imposed without agreement and we now have an overwhelming vote for action and it falls to LUL to pull back and start talking.”

The ballot was over four particular aspects of London Undergrounds Operational Effectiveness Programme which RMT says are unacceptable and potentially dangerous. These are;

  • The proposed new procedures for reversing a train; this procedure would allow a driver to reverse a train from a forward driving position without any assistance. We believe that this procedure increases the risk to staff and passengers, is not a safe system of work and does not comply with the ALARP “(as low as reasonably practicable) established safety principle.
  • Platform re-categorisation; this involves ordering drivers to “self dispatch” as a consequence of the massive reductions in platform based staff and takes no account of the serious faults already uncovered by RMT in the platform camera system and is a recipe for accidents and injuries to passengers.
  • Carrying passengers over a shunt signal; delaying the movement of the train service and potentially holding customers in tunnel sections for longer than needed.
  • The introduction of new sensitive edge procedures’ on the S stock on the sub-surface lines, despite the objections of our driver members and our trains health and safety representatives to this overriding of current failsafe systems. Management want to remove the inbuilt function which stops a train if an object is caught in the door. These changes will allow the driver to over-ride the sensitive edge technology and proceed after just a visual check. Coupled with the planned reduction of Station Staff, the dangers are compounded and any accidents would immediately be blamed on the driver.

London Underground is now unilaterally imposing Operational Standards Notice (OSN) 101 to bulldoze through these measures against the objections of our representatives. The ballot began before it emerged that LU are planning to move the inspections on fail-safe “tripcock” mechanisms from daily to bi-monthly in the latest safety cuts.


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