Deja vu Chingford

A furious row has erupted between the train drivers' union and management over safety issues relating to Tube trains.

It centres on who is responsible for taking suspected faulty trains out of service, following last Saturday's derailment at Chancery Lane station on the Central line.

In a separate development, London Underground (LU) has been asked to prove that the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) was not to blame for the accident, which injured 32 people.

The growing conflict comes as commuters face a second day of disruption to their journeys while investigations continue into the cause of the crash.

Tube disruption

Central and Waterloo and City Lines closed until Tuesday

Chancery Lane, St Paul's and Bank (Central line only) stations closed for several weeks

Buses running from Epping to Chingford and Stratford

Disruption worse than after the 1987 Kings Cross disaster

The RMT union said the driver of the damaged train had reported a fault about eight stations before Chancery Lane but had been told to continue with the journey.

The train was about to be taken out of service at Holborn, the next station after Chancery Lane.

LU said drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem.

However, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said this was a "blatant lie" and drivers were bullied if they refused to move trains on safety grounds.

The RMT said one of its members lodged a complaint just a week ago about being threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to move a train after he heard banging noises.

And it had a string of employment tribunal cases involving Tube staff sent home without pay for allegedly refusing to move trains on safety grounds during strikes by firefighters.

Glass shattered over passengers

Investigations are continuing into the crash

Mr Crow said: "The crazy financial performance regime now operating on the Tube under which fines are levied for late running has put our members under intolerable pressure.

"It underlines our fears for the future safety of the network under part-privatisation.

"The process should be stopped now before any more damage is done."

LU reacted by maintaining that drivers' hands were never forced over the issue of safety and just as a captain was responsible for the safety of a ship, safety of a train was down to the driver.

Liberal Democrat London affairs spokesman Tom Brake called on LU and the government to prove the shadow running of PPP on the Central Line had not contributed to the accident.

LU have stressed the section of track on which the accident happened was maintained by a wholly-owned subsidiary, not a private contractor.

Further delays

Commuters faced long delays and journey diversions on Monday after the whole of the Central and Waterloo and City lines were closed.

The situation is set to continue into Tuesday and neither line may re-open until Friday, LU has warned.

The Central Line is one of the capital's main arteries and the Tube's longest line, with 49 stations - including Bond Street and Oxford Circus.

Between them the two lines carry 600, 000 passengers a day.

The derailed train had been examined on Thursday, but the whole fleet is now undergoing further checks.

All 85 trains under scrutiny were built between 1991 and 1994 and entered service on the Waterloo and City Line in 1993 and on the Central Line between 1993 and 1995.

Waterloo was extremely crowded at 9.30am (people were being held back on the station concourse and not allowed underground for safety reasons) but everyone seemed to melt away when I headed for Bank - I took the route that LU recommended, via Elephant & Castle and the Northern Line, and it was almost deserted until the last couple of stops.
Andy Darley, England

I travel across town every day, Gants Hill to Lancaster Gate - this morning was truly chaotic. Buses were whizzing by full, overland rail was so overcrowded people were falling ill and Liverpool Street was just impossible. The journey took two and a half hours instead of one hour. Really looking forward to the return journey this evening - God bless London Transport!
Martin, UK

Does anyone else have a sense of deja-vu about this? It seems horribly reminiscent of the spate of accidents that occurred on the railways as they were being "rationalised" prior to privatisation. When will someone make the argument that the Underground is a public good, and therefore should not and cannot pay for itself through ticket sales? It pays for itself by moving five million workers and tourists around London every day, and therefore should be centrally funded to the level it needs to function safely. This PPP is not about bringing private sector efficiencies to a bloated inefficient public sector dinosaur, it's about reducing the state's liabilities and outgoings. Personally I am quite happy to think of a small portion of my taxes being "wasted", if it means that I can travel to my destination safely and punctually. No other city I have lived in has this ludicrous approach to collective goods.

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