Rail chief: Unions risking lives by blocking safety kit

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He claimed they had opposed vital new technology that could ­prevent devastating accidents. It included remote sensors that warn if an embankment is in danger of collapse from heavy rain and drones and trackside sensors that detect damage from a safe distance. Asked if the RMT was putting the lives of railway workers at risk, Mr Haines, said: “Absolutely.

“I could give you three or four examples where it has been obstructing for several years technology which has the sole purpose of protecting their members or the users of the railway.”

Mr Haines said the death of Network Rail worker Tyler Byrne was an example of a tragedy new technology could have prevented. Mr Byrne, 30, was killed by a 76mph train as he inspected a track in south-west London, last February.

Mr Haines said: “He didn’t need to be there. What he was doing was looking at how the track performs when there are trains going over it.

“A drone could do that as well, if not better, than the human eye.”

The rail boss also suggested RMT leaders, including general secretary Mick Lynch, were spending more time on TV than trying to solve the dispute.

He said railway workers would be offered a bigger pay rise than the three percent given to NHS staff last year, provided inefficient working practices were overhauled.

Mr Haines also threatened, as a last resort, to cut unions out of talks. He said: “We want to make sure that we’ve run out of road in negotiations before we do that, but it’s looking like we are pretty close to that point.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said he could not “responsibly” tell people the country will “continue with business as usual” on the railways.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany, the Prime Minister said levelling up would involve putting “huge amounts of investment into infrastructure”. He said the Government was doing “quite unbelievable things” on the train network, such as Crossrail and the integrated rail programme.

He added: “To justify paying that money, making those commitments, I think the travelling public and the taxpayer are going to want to see reform and improvement in the way the railways run.

“And I, as Prime Minister, I can’t responsibly tell them that we’re just going to continue with business as usual, with the same old systems of ticket offices that are barely used, or sell one ticket every hour.

“Or with systems like ‘walking time’ that aren’t the best use of the technology that we have and are only supported by the union barons.

“There are difficulties and there’s industrial action right now and I sympathise very much with the travelling public.”


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