Sat. Jul 2nd, 2022

A Tube driver says staff shortages on the underground not only puts drivers at risk but also the safety of traveling passengers. Craig Diggins, a Bakerloo line train operator for 21 years who was at the picket line outside Elephant and Castle station on Tuesday (June) 21, says if more jobs such as detrainment staff are axed then it puts the safety of both the rail workers and passengers at risk.

When a train reaches the end of the line, detrainment staff carry out physical checks of every Tube carriage before the drivers take trains into depots and sidings. This not only ensures the driver has on-hand assistance but it also speeds up the process.

Without them, Tube drivers have to resort to the infamous ‘flash and dash’ method as Craig explained to MyLondon: “What you do is you flash your lights on and off, make two or three announcements then shut the doors and go.” But the problem with this method, as Craig explains, is that passengers often do not realize they have reached the last stop and find themselves trapped in the carriages.

READ MORE:All the London train services during rail strike days line by line as operators warn against travel



The two rail workers said more striking is 'inevitable'
The two rail workers said more striking is ‘inevitable’

“People just sit there and you know what people are like – they do not pay attention – it happens all the time,” Craig said. “Including one boy, a 10-year-old boy who actually managed to get off the train and was found walking along the track, the driver had to stop otherwise he would have got electrocuted or run down.”

Craig joined his colleagues on a previous strike where “we physically got out at Queens Park and we ended up blocking all the way down to Elephant and Castle.” Eventually, detrainment staff were brought back to work on the Bakerloo line but Craig says the Government is now pushing for cuts again to help save on money.

The 60-year-old, who is due to retire in a month, told MyLondon he will not stop striking until he sees progressive change. He had been at the picket line at the other end of the Bakerloo line in Queens Park since 3am. He said: “I want the transport system to have a secure future, to benefit the people that work in it but also the traveling public. I do not like the antagonizing and the inconvenience for the public, but that’s not what we’re doing it for – it’s just an unfortunate consequence. ”

Craig added that he feels bleak about the future of transport in the UK, adding: “The only way you can get any change is as a collective because as an individual you have no power. We’re on strike to cause some pressure to make them realize they’re not funding the system properly. It’s the Government’s fault, they’s the ones who have been reducing and subsidizing year on year – that’s why we have the highest fares in the world. ”

Disputes over night Tube rotas

As part of the strike, Craig is partly striking over an ongoing dispute concerning night Tube rotas. Craig explained: “Boris Johnson came in and decided out of the blue he wanted a Night Tube, a lot of people do not realize that the structure is different in a 24-hour Tube system like New York.

“In New York you have two tracks minimum running in each direction, so what you can do is shut down one of the tracks and then you run off the tracks on the other one – but you can not do that in London because the underground isn’t built like that. We have one track so you have to allow for maintenance and downtime. ”

Craig explains that separate staff were employed to work the nights; however after Covid restrictions were lifted, night shifts were handed over to daytime staff who were not initially working these hours. “They want to reintroduce the night Tube but what they’ve done is rip up the agreement in 2016 and said we’re going to put these night shifts in for you, so we’d be doing more weekends and more nights and obviously we ‘re not happy about it, ”he explained.

Another issue raised by Craig is understaffing at certain Tube stations and at certain times. He called the understaffing ‘inconvenient’, particularly for disabled people who might not be able to get the assistance they need from workers. Meanwhile, Craig says the number of jobs have been slashed over the years making it more isolating for current workers and jeopardises their safety.

‘It’s do or die now’

He added: “If a driver is stuck, you’re going to have no help, that will not make people safe.” Craig was joined by his colleague and fellow RMT trade union member Dave O’Brien from Kennington who has worked as a Tube driver for 15 years. Dave, 55, told MyLondon: “It’s do or die now really, they smell blood and are trying to take the job apart – that’s not an exaggeration, it’s fairly fundamental stuff.

“This is to defend our terms and conditions, to defend jobs for people. The people before us were doing the same thing, defending it. So we are under a similar understanding to do our best for people coming after us. It’s not about individuals at all, it’s about defending the culture.

“Why should people pay the price for the failings of their system? We are not making these decisions. ” Craig and Dave told MyLondon more strikes are inevitable and could carry on for a “long time” unless they see significant changes from the Government. At least 40,000 RMT trade union members are expected to strike this week after talks broke down between Network Rail, train operators and the London Underground.

Additional strikes will be held on Thursday (June 23) and Saturday (June 25). This week marks the biggest rail strike the country has seen in three decades MyLondon contacted the Department of Transport for comment but they did not respond at the time of publication.

Are you visiting the picket lines this week? Let Ruby know by writing to her at ruby.gregory@reachplc.com

For the latest news from across the capital, head to our homepage.

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.