Labour Research December 2019

Health & Safety Matters

Train firms break pledge over sewage dumping

The RMT rail union says greedy train companies and a government with an “appalling attitude to the staff who work in the transport industry” are to blame for a broken promise to stop the dumping of sewage on railway tracks. 

The union says several train companies have reneged on a pledge to retro-fit rolling stock with holding-tank toilets and cease dumping raw sewage on the tracks by the end of the year. 

It denounces the practice that “sees track workers routinely sprayed with human excrement and fleet staff left having to scrape it off the bottom of trains”.

The Unite union also condemned the practice, which it says is putting the health of maintenance workers at risk — they have to clean off sewage before repair work and inspections can be carried out. 

The union warned that unless specialist washing facilities are introduced, it will ballot its 130 members at the Neville Hill maintenance depot in Leeds where workers maintain trains from East Midlands Railways and London North Eastern Railways. 

Both companies operate trains which allow sewage to drop onto tracks and trains. 

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the fact that the pledge to end the practice had been reneged on showed “the utter contempt” the rail firms have for rail workers. 

He added that in the run-up to the general election, the union would be making an issue of a “shameful government-sanctioned practice”.