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November 30, 2011

Bristol strikes: Thousands march in city centre

BBC: 30 November 2011

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Thousands of people have taken part in a march and rally in Bristol as part of industrial action over changes to pensions.

Unions said up to two million public sector workers across the UK walked out over the proposed changes.

More than 140 of about 180 schools in Bristol were shut or partially closed.

The prime minister's spokesman said the strikes would achieve nothing and it would be better for unions to continue with talks about pensions.

The march left College Green in the city centre at 11:30 GMT and a rally took place at Castle Park at 12:30 GMT where representatives from many public service unions addressed the crowd.

Avon and Somerset Police estimated that 10,000 people took part while Unison said that 20,000 were at the protest.

NUT spokeswoman Nina Franklin told the crowd the unions had entered into negotiations in good faith but that the government had not.

"There's a huge injustice to public service workers and we should all call on the TUC to call the next day of action until we get fair pensions for all.

"The government should be taking notice," Ms Franklin added.

'Strong feeling'

One protester in Bristol, Louise Wakefield, said she was taking action as she did not want to continue working as a physiotherapist until 67.

"We're committed to patients. We don't want to take industrial action but there's such a strong feeling among colleagues.

"We are being penalised on so many fronts," she added.

Retired social worker Anne Walder said she was taking part in the march for her children and grandchildren's benefit.

"OAPs in years to come will either be starved or will end up on Jobseeker's allowance.

"Cameron should be ashamed of himself and should be asking the bankers for the money instead," she added.

A Bristol City Council spokesman said earlier "every effort" would be made to ensure services continued and several departments had minimum levels of staff cover.

Some social workers, residential care staff, home care workers, crematorium staff, highways management and homelessness officers continued to work.

The M Shed museum and Bristol Museum and Art Gallery were closed, along with the recycling centre at Avonmouth, the spokesman said.

Staff taking part in strike action walked out of Bristol Royal Infirmary at 00:00 GMT
More than 90 of the 100 schools in South Gloucestershire were shut.

In Bath, protesters assembled at Royal Victoria Park before embarking on a march and rally on Wednesday afternoon.

Bath and North East Somerset Council said priority had been given to essential services.

About 75 of 100 schools in the authority's area were closed.

North Somerset Council said more than 60 schools of 79 in its area were closed.

Earlier, members of staff at Bristol Royal Infirmary, who were taking part in the industrial action, walked out of the hospital at midnight.

A University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said all its emergency services were running as normal.

November 23, 2011

First Great Western announces extra carriages

BBC News: 22 November 2011
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Train operator First Great Western is to introduce 48 more carriages to its services next year.

Some 4,500 seats will be added at peak times between London and South Wales, Bristol, Swindon, Didcot and Oxford.

Extra carriages will be used between Falmouth and Truro, and between Paignton, Exmouth, Exeter and Barnstaple.

An extra 924 seats will be available in and out of Bristol during peak times, including 336 through Bath.

In the addition to the extra carriages, newly refurbished trains will operate between Worcester and London Paddington, and between Reading and Basingstoke.

First Great Western said the improvements would cost £29m.

'Increasing demand'

The firm's managing director, Mark Hopwood, said the additional carriages would help to reduce overcrowding.

"We've seen an ever increasing demand for travel on our services.
"This investment will deliver thousands of extra seats for customers across our network," he said.

The new carriages will come into service between February and September next year.

Anthony Smith, from passenger watchdog Passenger Focus, said the investment was welcome in the short-term, but he wanted to see "more deals like these from train companies, government and councils".

"This is especially important as fares will rise in the new year and passengers want to see some action on their concerns and a return for the extra money," he said.

"In the longer term, government investment in more carriages, longer trains and improved track capacity is needed."

The extra 48 carriages will be leased from existing rolling stock that has been reburbished.

Link to BBC News site

November 18, 2011

Save Our Railways, No to McNulty

RMT: November 17 2011

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Nationwide Campaigning Day of Action, Thursday 15th December.

With the Government confirming that its’ planned “Command Paper” in response to the McNulty Review on the future of the railways has been deferred to the New Year, rail union RMT is working with sister trade unions and the wider community to step up the fight against the expected attacks on jobs, services and affordable fares.


As part RMT’s ongoing campaign against the McNulty Report the union is organising a campaigning day of action on Thursday 15th December.

RMT members and campaign supporters will distribute campaign postcards during the morning rush hour to passenger at stations throughout the country.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said;

“The Government timetable for responding to the McNulty Rail Review may have slipped but our campaign to stop this assault on our railways before it even gets out of the traps is going full steam ahead.

“We know what McNulty means - more rip-offs from privatisation, fewer jobs on inferior conditions, closure of services and massive hikes in fares for the travelling public.

“No one knows why the Government has delayed its response to McNulty from this autumn to the New Year but we live in hope that it’s because they’ve realized that attempting to claw back the 30% loss to the system from the fragmentation and profiteering of privatisation by slapping on more of the same is barmy.

“RMT will keep the pressure on through the day of action on 15th December and continue to set out the case for a publicly owned and controlled railway fee from private greed which would be at least 30% cheaper than the privatised and fragmented arrangements that are failing everyone at the moment.”


November 17, 2011

Extra platforms for Bristol Temple Meads station

BBC News: 15 November 2011
Bristol Temple Meads railway station could be in line for two new platforms to cope with extra demand.

Network Rail says the demand for trains in the city will increase by 44% by the end of the decade.

It believes the electrification of the London Paddington line will prompt a demand for local rail services.

The company also wants to add extra tracks between Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood to increase the number of services to Bristol Parkway station.

A Network Rail Western spokesman said it wanted to redevelop the land and buildings around Bristol Temple Meads as part of an integrated travel hub for the city.

It also wants to improve car parking, ease congestion and significantly improve the station environment.

The company now plans to bid for government money via the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

A LEP spokesman said the plans, combined with the electrification of the Paddington line, would add to the West of England's attractiveness as a place to do business.

Link to BBC News site

First Great Western trains from Bristol get more seats

BBC News: 10 November 2011
Bath and North East Somerset Council has welcomed plans to put on extra carriages for First Great Western services in the Bristol and Bath area.

The train operator will add extra carriages for peak times during Mondays to Fridays for commuters.

Councillor Roger Symonds said the council had lobbied the government for several years and was pleased the suggestions had worked.

The extra carriages will be put into service by mid-December.

Services from Bristol to Keynsham, Oldfield Park, Bath Spa and Freshford will get an extra carriage, rising from three to four, on the 08:41 GMT and 17:49 GMT services on Mondays to Fridays.

Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads via Oldfield Park and Keynsham will increase its carriages from two to four at 08:47 GMT, from one to two carriages at 14:15 GMT and from two to three at 16:07 GMT. These trains also call at Freshford on weekdays.

Each carriage has up to 75 seats.

Link to BBC News site

November 9, 2011

Virgin West Coast cleaners win 10% increase in fair pay fight

RMT: November 9 2011

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RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that cleaners working for the Carlisle Group on the Virgin West Coast Mainline have won a pay increase of 10% along with further improvements in benefits, allowances and working conditions.


The pay victory, announced two days before the cleaners were due to begin another 48 hours of strike action, will be phased in over the next 10 months but from this week staff will be 5% better off.

In the run up to the dispute RMT has recruited hundreds of new members and it is that strong and vibrant union organisation that has delivered a rock-solid 24 hour strike and industrial action including a refusal to empty on-train sewage tanks.

The deal means that since June 2010 RMT has moved the cleaner’s rate of pay from £5.80 to £7.12 per hour by September 2013, so as a result of over 3 years of campaigning and building the union we have achieved a 23% increase in our members pay.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“It is solely down to the strength, solidarity and sheer courage of the Virgin West Coast Cleaners that we have been able to negotiate this 10% pay deal. We have moved the cleaning contractors, Carlisle, from a 1% offer to a 10% settlement and in the current climate that is a fantastic achievement.

“This 10% pay deal sends out a message to low paid workers everywhere that if you organise in a trade union, and are prepared to put up a fight that you can win.

“RMT is now stepping up campaigns for a fair deal for cleaners and catering staff across the transport industry and the model campaign on the West Coast Main Line cleaners will be rolled out to other companies with the clear message that we can win.”

Lisbon shut down as transport workers strike against austerity

Morning Star: 08 November 2011

Portuguese public-transport staff shut down national train and ferry services and the Lisbon underground today in the latest major industrial action against the government's drive to make working people pay off its debt.


Staff at the state-owned rail company Comboios de Portugal and the underground walked off the job during the morning rush hour.

Bus and ferry workers also stopped work.

Staff voted for strike action after the neoliberal Social Democratic government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho vowed in May to slash pay and boost regressive taxes in return for a €78 billion (£67bn) bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Mr Coelho's administration has vowed to force private-sector employees to work 30 minutes more a day for no extra pay, while slashing health and education budgets and bumping up VAT.

It has also promised to sell off the postal service, national airline TAP, airport managing firm ANA and the freight branch of the railways next year - on top of selling off stakes in utility firms this year.

Civil servants and military personnel are set to rally in Lisbon on Saturday and Portugal's two main trade union confederations have called a general strike for November 24.

Portugal slipped into a double-dip recession this year. The economy is forecast to keep contracting in 2012 when the official unemployment rate is predicted to reach a record 13.4 per cent.

Rail cable theft: Up to eight cases a day, MPs are told

BBC News: 8 November 2011
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There are now as many as eight cases of attempted cable theft from the railways a day, operator Network Rail has said.

Dyan Crowther, the body's operations director, said the crime was spreading across the UK and had cost the firm more than £40m over the past two years.

Most cases were "random", she told MPs, and there was evidence thieves were impersonating engineering staff.

A senior police officer said it was seen as a "low risk, high return" crime and penalties were not tough enough.

Ministers have said they are looking at new measures to combat the problem and are being urged to give police greater powers and to tighten regulation of scrap metal dealers.

Ms Crowther told the Transport Select Committee that the problem of cable theft had first surfaced in the north-east of England about two years ago and had "migrated" steadily across the country.

'Daily risk'

While many cases took place at night, thefts were now regularly happening in peak time, she told MPs, and while there were "hotspots" there was no real pattern to their occurrence.

"It is quite difficult to predict and makes a response very difficult," she said.

There were now between six and eight attempted thefts a day, she said, which had cost Network Rail £43m over the past two years in terms of compensation paid to train firms and repair costs.

"It is a risk. It is a risk to our network daily and we are working very hard to mitigate those risks."

In the most high-profile case yet, in June cable thieves disabled the signalling system near Woking in Surrey, causing massive disruption for around 80,000 passengers in the evening rush hour.

Ms Crowther said drivers were being briefed to report "suspicious activity" on the network amid evidence that thieves were pretending to be engineering staff in order to gain access to the railway.

'Market-driven'

Measures being used to combat cable theft, she told MPs, included increased use of surveillance, reinforcing railway sleepers and spraying tracks with traceable liquid to deter thieves.

Also giving evidence, the British Transport Police said it had 110 officers working full time on the problem as it was aware it was having a "very significant" effect on communities and businesses.

"We take it very, very seriously indeed. It fills up much of our waking time," Paul Crowther, the force's deputy director told the MPs.

There was a "clear correlation" between price of copper on commodity markets and rates of crime, he told MPs, suggesting cable theft was largely the work of "professional criminals".

"All routes lead us back to the market," he said. "It is a very market-driven crime. It is almost as if the criminals are looking at the market themselves."

Legislation for dealing with the crime, dating back to 1964, was "outdated" and needed redrafting.

Those selling scrap metal to dealers did not have to provide proof of their identity and, unless this was tightened, it would be "almost impossible" to charge someone if the material was obtained illegally.

"It really is Steptoe and Son legislation which has not kept pace with current methods.

"The traceability of the individual is compromised which means the traceability of the material is compromised and the whole incidence of cash in the process creates situations where corrupt practices can take place."

While the maximum fine available under current law was £1,000, those committing the crimes could make thousands of pounds, he said, while sentences awarded often "did not reflect the impact".

'Disjointed'

Labour have urged ministers to toughen regulation by licensing scrap metal dealers, making it easier to close down rogue operators and to examine a ban on cash transactions.

Ian Hetherington, head of the British Metals Recycling Association, said there was a problem with the number of illegal scrap dealers in the UK which could be as many as 900.

The industry accepted regulations needed to be updated, he added, but this would make no difference unless they were properly enforced and there needed to be a uniform approach by the police.

"Frankly if existing law cannot be enforced, new law will not be enforced any better," he said.

"I would not stand in the way of local policing but it does produce a proliferation of well-meaning and relatively short-lived policing initiatives.

"Our members are subject to a different set of criteria set out by the police in Manchester and Lancashire as they are in Kent or in Norfolk. It is a very disjointed picture in terms of policing."

Link to BBC News site

High speed rail report 'raises questions' say opponents

BBC News: 8 November 2011
A report into the government's proposed high-speed rail link (HS2) has raised unanswered questions about the plans, according to opponents of the project.

Stop HS2, which has its headquarters in Warwickshire, said the Transport Select Committee report listed a number of areas where the government's case for high-speed rail as currently proposed "falls down".

These included issues around the economic case for the line and the environmental impact, the campaign group said.

The committee of MPs compiled the report after speaking to people both for and against the proposed scheme, which would initially run between London and Birmingham.

'Not minor niggles'

Joe Rukin, co-ordinator of Stop HS2, said the report listed a number of areas where work was still needed in terms of "planning and appraising HS2 before deciding to proceed and shows there are many unanswered questions".

"There must be a delay in the decision while these concerns are addressed," he added.

Penny Gaines, chair of the campaign group, said: "The Transport Select Committee lists a number of major areas where the government's case for high speed rail as currently proposed falls down.

"These are not minor niggles, but cover huge policy areas."

Other West Midlands anti HS2 campaigners have also criticised the report.

Graham Long of Ladbroke Against HS2 said: "I'm just amazed that with so many substantial criticisms and recommendations for changes and further investigation that the committee has felt able to even tentatively recommend that HS2 proceed.

"The evidence is very much they shouldn't - we can improve the whole of our transport for far less cost much more quickly by simply improving the West Coast mainline, the Midlands mainline and the East Coast mainline."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "We welcome the committee's report and note the support it shows for the need for a high-speed rail [HSR] network in Britain, and many of the proposals made in the government's consultation on HS2.

"The report provides a useful contribution to the debate on HSR and echoes a number of the messages coming out from the responses to the public consultation."

'Only option'

Chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Jerry Blackett, said: "We are clear that HS2 is the 21st Century solution to our creaking Victorian infrastructure.

"We must also stress the need for local transport investment to go alongside HS2 to increase the economic benefits and share them throughout the region.

"HS2 is the only viable option for Birmingham if we want to see the levels of growth, investment and job creation that will transform this city. "

HS2 has also been described as good for business in the Midlands by the Confederation of British Industry.

Richard Butler, from the confederation, said: "It's a bit of a no brainer. We really can't do without it.

"The West Midlands economy is suffering at the moment and a scheme like this will bring some real economic benefit to the area."

Gisela Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, who heads the all-party campaign in support of HS2, also highlighted the boost to business she believes the rail-link would bring.

She said: "If you look at successful economies across the world serious infrastructure for the transport system is essential and we haven't got that in this country.

"We're London-centric and we don't take enough account of the way we in the Midlands trade with the northeast and the northwest and that's what the rail link will open up."

Link to BBC News site

Rail planners discuss increased services for Bristol area

BBC News: 4 November 2011
Increasing rail services for Bristol and the reopening of the Portishead-to-Bristol Temple Meads line to passengers have been discussed.

Rail industry bosses have met to debate plans for revitalisation of suburban train travel.

Delegates were also asked to consider whether electrifying the Severn Beach line was more important than reopening the Thornbury branch line.

They then took a tour to explore the local railway network.

Local councillors and campaigners had invited members of Network Rail and the Department for Transport to board the one-off passenger train to see the potential of improvements for what could be achieved in and and around the city.

The meeting was also told Network Rail is considering putting in new tracks between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood, which would allow more trains to use the line, which goes to Bristol Parkway.

'High priority'

Earlier this week, a bid for £43m to reopen a railway link between Bristol and Portishead was rejected by the government.

North Somerset Council applied for the money from the Regional Growth Fund to begin passenger services on the line, which was closed in 1964.

The authority said it was "disappointed" but added reopening the route was still a "high priority".

"Work will continue on pursuing all options for funding this important transport scheme," a statement said.

Part of the railway line into Bristol - from Portbury - was reopened to freight in 2002 but the rest of the route is still disused.

A study in 2010 showed travel time from Portishead would be 17 minutes, compared to an hour by road during rush hour.

Funding blow for Portishead to Bristol rail link

BBC News: 1 November 2011
A bid for £43m to reopen a railway link between Bristol and Portishead has been rejected by the government.

North Somerset Council applied for the money from the Regional Growth Fund to begin passengers services on the line which closed in 1964.

The authority said it was "disappointed" but added that reopening the route was still a "high priority".

"Work will continue on pursuing all options for funding this important transport scheme," a statement said.

North Somerset Council's deputy leader, Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, said they would continue to work with Network Rail on a plan to open the line.

"We are still very much committed to reopening the Portishead rail link. We knew it was only an outside chance of getting funding from the growth fund.

"We will continue to press ahead and work with Network Rail to look at alternative funding streams."

Part of the rail line into Bristol - from Portbury - was reopened in 2002 but the rest of the route remains disused.

A study in 2010 showed that travel time from the Portishead would be 17 minutes compared to an hour by road during rush hour.

November 8, 2011

WHAT IS THE MCNULTY

saynotomcnulty.jpg
The McNulty report was commissioned by the
government to “improve value for money to
passengers and the taxpayer.”
But the report’s recommendations are a false economy
which will worsen services to passengers and short
change the taxpayer.

The McNulty review was commissioned by the last Government and continued by
the current Government to “improve value for money to passengers and the
taxpayer”.
The basic message from the McNulty report is that rail workers and passengers
are being asked to pay the price of rail privatisation. The multitude of private
competing interests who make up our fragmented industry are not only let off the
hook, but are given even more powers.
The report is far from independent. It is based on the same crack pot ideology that
led to the original privatisation of our railways. As such it is full of misinformation
and inaccuracies. For example the review ignores the fact that rail workers in
Britain are amongst the most productive in Europe. The most sensible solution to
the railways’ problems would be re-nationalisation yet the report hardly gives this a
mention. It even refuses to acknowledge that railways in Europe are cheaper for
the tax and fare payer because they are in the main more integrated and in the
public sector.
If the government implements the McNulty report, the railways will become even
more fragmented and complex with a significant shift of power to the privatised
train operators. Regional services will be under threat and fares, which are already
the most expensive in Europe, will become even less affordable.
And make no mistake, the McNulty review represents the biggest attack on rail
workers jobs, pay and conditions since privatisation. Every aspect of the McNulty
report will directly impact on the livelihood of rail workers. No grade will be left
unaffected and all grades will have to unite to defend pay and conditions.
At the moment the McNulty report is a recommendation to the Government. In the
autumn the Government will produce a rail policy White Paper which may reflect
some or all of the McNulty report.
In the months ahead, RMT will be highlighting the dangers of McNulty and
campaigning to defend jobs, conditions and the future of our railways. This
campaign will involve all members, the wider union movement, passengers and
communities.
This pamphlet gives you the facts to support that campaign.
Unity is strength
Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary

Read more:

Paying for Privatisation: RMT briefing on the McNulty Report into the Railways

Save Our Railways latest briefing on McNulty

Watch Bob Crow's Speech at the RMT Save Our Railways - Say No To McNulty Rally

RMT Web site with further links

November 4, 2011

RMT Bristol Celebrates Long Serving Members

4th November 2011:

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On Wednesday 2nd November 2011, RMT Bristol branch celebrated hundreds of years of union membership and railway service at The Annual Long Memberships Awards held at The Parkway Tavern.

RMT National President Alex Gordon gave a small speech outlining where the union was at nationally and outlined the challanges facing the union and the labour movement in general. He then presented the awards to the members involved.

FGW Train Manager Roger Bowyer was the major award of the evening, celebrating 40 years of membership that started in Acton Yard, London, before heading west at the end of the last century. Roger recieved a standing ovation from all the attending members.

DBS Shunter Chris Baggs was awarded a 25 year badge. His railway career started as a lamp cleaner at Marsh Junction, before spells at Dr Days and Bath Road. His travels might not be over as he is currently looking at his job transferring from the delights of Avonmouth Docks to the Mendip Hills.

Nine other members were awarded 10 year badges and these included Elaine Lambert, (NR), Pat Hennessy (Freightliner), and Doug Davis, Mo Ellis, Sylvia Kent, Paul Marshell, Jack Kingsbury, Matthew Miles and Ben Douthwaite (all FGW).

Many of these members had longer service with other unions and have joined RMT after, indeed Mo and Sylvia have nearly 50 years service between them but were previously TSSA members.

Jack Kingsbury was previously in the electricians union until his union folded and he joined RMT. He will be retireing next year and informed everyone how he is the last of a railway dynasty that stretches back through his family with recorded service with companies such as Great Western Railways and The Somerset & Dorset Railway.

Everyone had an excellent night that managed to attend, we had many apologies from other long serving members who due to other committments, work or personal, were unable to make it. My thanks go to Branch Committee members who helped to organise the night, to Alex Gordon for officiating and the staff of The Parkway Tavern for supplying the food.

We look forward to next year and more celebrations.

RMT demands full inquiry into management and operations at Network Rail following Grayrigg Inquest verdict

RMT: November 4 2011

Following today’s Grayrigg Coroners Court verdict Bob Crow, General Secretary of rail union RMT has called for a public inquiry into the management and operations of Network Rail.


RMT also says that the failures of the rail regulator, ORR, to adequately monitor and check on the £8 billion up grade on the West Coast Main Line, and continued failures to enforce safe systems to allow proper maintenance of the high speed track, was risking further derailments and their performance also needed examination.

Mr Crow pointed to the evidence given at the Coroners Court that there had been a fundamental disagreement between senior NR officers about their ability to maintain the infrastructure on the WCML when the line speed was allowed to increase to facilitate Virgins Pendolino trains.

Network Rail’s own report in to the derailment at Grayrigg in February 2007 found that ‘’…..no structured assessment was undertaken to establish whether sufficient resources existed’’ and that ‘’…..management systems employed…were not sufficiently robust..’’

Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, said today;

‘’ It is now crystal clear that too many political careers and financial incentives for senior management depended on meeting deadlines regardless of safety considerations.

“Pressure for faster and more frequent trains, and the financial penalties for Network Rail and its Executives pay of any delays, led to unacceptable pressure on staff. Network Rail, with the full knowledge of the ORR, are still failing to provide adequate time and staff to complete proper patrols and maintenance required on the West Coast route.

“There remain systemic problems which have failed to be addressed since this derailment. We cannot wait for another derailment and another inquest to deal with these issues and now need an urgent public inquiry.’’

Grayrigg Train Crash: Faulty points caused woman's death.

BBC: 4 November 2011

Poorly-maintained points were to blame for causing the death of an elderly woman in the Grayrigg train crash in Cumbria, an inquest jury has found.


Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, died after the Virgin train derailed on the West Coast Main Line, in February 2007.

The train went over a "degraded" set of points at 92 mph and careered down an embankment, leaving 88 people injured.

Mrs Masson's daughter, Margaret Langley, said responsibility "lies at the door of Network Rail".

David Lewis, an engineer with the company, broke down in tears on Monday when he told the Kendal hearing he had forgotten to inspect the points near where the crash happened.

He said he was "under pressure" when he failed to check a section of the rail line five days before the derailment.

He told the inquest he felt like a man "spinning plates on sticks".

His colleague Paul Wills, an assistant track section manager, told the inquest that staff had to put up with "bully-boy" management.

The 11 jurors had heard how a subsequent Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) inquiry ruled the "immediate cause" of the crash was that the train had gone over a "degraded and unsafe" set of points, known as Lambrigg 2B.

One of three stretcher bars, which keep moving rails a set distance apart, was missing while the other two were fractured and bolts were missing.

Margaret Masson died of her injuries almost three hours after the crash
They also heard how Mr Lewis and his team were under-staffed, with workers not given the right tools or enough time to carry out checks.

Mr Lewis, who has since left Network Rail, had already warned his bosses about the "shambles", the jury was told.

Coroner Ian Smith said it was a "tragic irony" that the man who tried to flag up the problems was the man who missed the points-check days before the derailment.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the rail workers union, the RMT, called for a public inquiry into the management and operations of Network Rail.

He said: "Pressure for faster and more frequent trains led to unacceptable pressure on staff.

"Network Rail, with the full knowledge of the ORR (Office of Rail Regulation), is still failing to provide adequate time and staff to complete proper patrols and maintenance.

"There remain systemic problems which have failed to be addressed since this derailment.

"We cannot wait for another derailment and another inquest to deal with these issues and now need an urgent public inquiry.''

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Masson's son, George, 62, an engineer from Castlemilk, Glasgow, said he had initially blamed Mr Lewis, but now blamed his employer.

He said: "In my eyes it is negligence on Network Rail's part, not him (Mr Lewis).

Soyab Patel, the solicitor for Mrs Masson's family, said: "There was a series of omissions and failures"
"The one that tried to make changes lost his job, his pension, he was not listened to from above.

"Before I knew anything about this I wanted to take his head off his shoulders.

"Now I totally respect him. He's got my utmost respect for what he tried to do. It's been swept under the carpet."

Network Rail managing director Robin Gisby said: "Network Rail has not hidden from its responsibilities, the company quickly accepted that it was a fault with the infrastructure that caused the accident.

"We again apologise to Mrs Masson's family.

"Since the derailment, Network Rail has worked closely with the authorities, conducted comprehensive and detailed investigations and made substantial changes to its maintenance regime."

Coroner Ian Smith said that in the coming week he would be issuing a report under Rule 43 of the 1984 Coroners Rules to the appropriate authorities.

One of the concerns raised would be the issue of track access for workers.

'Adequate standards'

A spokesman for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) said: "We welcome the conclusion of the inquest.

"ORR will now complete its investigation and will decide in accordance with prosecution protocol whether to bring criminal proceedings for health and safety offences."

Referring to the RMT comments, it said it had carried out a series inspections since the derailment.

"We have inspected to verify that Network Rail has adequate standards in place to maintain the track and that these standards are adequately implemented," it said.

"Our inspection work found a number of deficiencies and we have served five enforcement notices to ensure compliance."

November 2, 2011

Grayrigg inquest: Engineer 'forgot' to inspect track

BBC News: 1 November 2011
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A Network Rail engineer broke down in tears as he told an inquest he forgot to inspect the points which caused the Grayrigg train crash in Cumbria.

Maintenance manager David Lewis said he was "under pressure" when he failed to patrol a section of the West Coast Main Line five days before the crash.

He told the hearing at Kendal he felt like a man "spinning plates on sticks".

Margaret Masson, 84, from Glasgow, a passenger on the Virgin Pendolino which left the track in 2007, was killed.

The hearing was told how the day after the February crash, Mr Lewis told his manager that the failure to patrol the stretch of line was "down to me, it was my responsibility".

The inquest jury also heard how Mr Lewis and his team were "under staffed" and "under pressure" and their work was "not entirely compliant".

Colleague Paul Wills, an assistant track section manager for Network Rail, told the inquest staff had to put up with "bully-boy" management.

He said workers had been harassed while carrying out inspections of the track in Cumbria and a backlog of maintenance work had piled-up due to lack of time.

Mr Wills said it was part of his job to take work gangs to inspect the track on Sunday mornings.

But this meant no trains could pass that part of the line while the inspections were under way, so his workers were under constant pressure to get off the track.

A statement given by Mr Wills following the crash was read to the inquest jury.

In it he said "Prior to the derailment there was a lot of bully-boy tactics. It is easier to come to work now but it is not easier to do the work."

Mrs Masson died and 88 people were injured when the train was derailed two seconds after travelling over the points at more than 90mph at 20:11 GMT on 23 February.

Earlier the inquest was told how Mr Lewis sent an email to his bosses one year before the crash, in which he described the inspection system as a "shambles".

Mr Lewis said in his email: "It's time for the hierarchy to stop ducking the issue and sort this shambles out once and for all... ensuring the infrastructure is now safe and fit for purpose is now virtually impossible."

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