Rail services increase must be gradual with safety first, says Unite

Unite the union, which represents over 7,800 members in the rail sector throughout the UK, is cautioning ahead of the prime minister’s anticipated announcement that the lockdown will be partially lifted, that an increase in rail services must be gradually implemented.

The union is concerned to ensure that rail employers work with it to ensure that worker and passenger safety are paramount.

Unite’s rail members primarily work in maintenance, control rooms, cleaning and catering roles and without their work the service would not be able to function.  Members have worked throughout the coronavirus crisis to ensure key workers are able to get to work and essential medical supplies and food are moved around the country.

The union is advising its members that no work on the rail network should re-start without an up-to-date risk assessment in place.  This is particularly important in workplaces that are ramping up or re-opening which may have fallen behind in implementing current advice while in lockdown.

Unite is seeking a phased and gradual increase in rail journeys to ensure certain conditions are met at all times to inspire the confidence of both workers and passengers, including

  • Risk assessments are undertaken and fully applied
  • Two metre social distancing measures to protect rail workers are preserved
  • Measures are in place for controlling overcrowding.

In particular, the union is very concerned that as passenger numbers increase, trains that have been out of service since the beginning of the lockdown are fitted out to fully comply with the social distancing measures already in place.

Unite national officer for rail Harish Patel said: “Members fully understand that rail services will need to increase but that must not create a risk to their health or the health of their families.

 “It is essential that employers work step by step with Unite to increase capacity, to restore passenger confidence and keep the travelling public and the workforce safe.

 “This must be based on full risk assessments being undertaken and their findings then being properly applied.

 “If employers do not follow a safety first approach and workers believe their health is in imminent danger, Unite will fully support them in their decision to stop work including when this means members removing themselves to a place where the threat to their safety no longer exists.”

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