THE largest rail union, the RMT, has written to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) to demand the withdrawal of plans to scrap safety rules on the London Underground.
The union felt it even more necessary to write to Prescott in the light of last Thursday’s bomb blasts on the tube and bus network.
The rules were introduced after the Kings Cross fire disaster in 1987.
The regulations set down wide-ranging fire fighting and precaution measures, including means of escape, means of fighting fire, minimum staffing levels and staff training and means of detecting/warning of fire for London Underground and mainline stations.
‘Following the terrible attacks on London, plans to replace Tube safety regulations with risk assessments would seriously downgrade fire safety standards and security on Tube and mainline stations,’ RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.
Labour MP John MacDonnell will be putting down an Early Day Motion in parliament today noting that ‘these minimum standards are even more essential in light of the recent terrorist attacks’.
The union has also requested London Mayor Ken Livingstone intervenes to save the regulations.
The union also called on London Underground to drop cost-cutting plans to do away with hundreds of station staff jobs.
‘As transport secretary Alistair Darling has commended Tube staff for their courage and professionalism, he should now reconsider these deep job cuts,’ Crow said.
‘Any attempt to remove fire safety regulations and implement cuts in staffing level would be to totally disregard widespread concern for safety and security on London’s transport network,’ he added.
The Fire Brigades Union has also written to Prescott’s office, ‘about the collapse of the fire prevention regime’ on the Tube, an FBU spokesman told News Line yesterday.
The FBU spokesman said: ‘What the RMT is talking about is the regulatory reform order, under which the fire service has an enforcement role in fire safety and prevention.’
He added that not only London but ‘a large number of fire authorities may be in breach of their statutory duties. Enforcement capacity has been virtually wiped out due to cuts in staff.
‘There’s been a collapse in the issue of fire certificates, fire inspections and follow-up inspections.
‘The decision was taken secretly without consultation.’
The FBU spokesman stressed that ‘these regulations have been built up on the back of major disasters and go way beyond fires: they include evacuations and terrorist attacks.’
Former Manchester Square fire station FBU rep Julian Gifford added: ‘I’m no longer a rep, as our station was closed almost a month to the day that the incidents took place.
‘It shows a lack of foresight. Edgware Road was on our patch. I don’t agree with the cuts, it’s ridiculous.
‘They’ve taken away two appliances, which means there are less personnel around, when we need more staff.’
All three rail unions, RMT, ASLEF and TSSA, have written a joint letter to the government requesting extra staff and improved technology on trains to improve security and safety, white collar rail union TSSA confirmed to News Line yesterday.
The unions want a new ‘security’ position created to take pressure off drivers in emergencies. The rail unions said it was unfair for all the responsibility to be shouldered by one person, and precious moments could be lost in the event of an incident.
The unions said that technology could also improve security on the underground. Currently, Tube drivers using the in-cab telephone system do not have direct access to the 999 emergency services.
The TSSA spokeswoman added to News Line that ‘while we would wish to take a measured approach, we would be very concerned about anything that would cause safety and security to suffer.’