Transport union RMT has warned Network Rail that progress to stop trains dumping raw excrement onto tracks in England and Wales has been “far too slow”.
Despite welcoming Network Rail’s proposed ban on the practice by 2019, the union blamed the slow progress on train companies and the government’s “drive to maintain profit at all costs”.
Network Rail reiterated its plan to end the dumping of toilet waste onto tracks when it unveiled its control period 6 (CP6) strategic business plan earlier this week. The operator said the measure would help clean up worksites and help attract new workers to the industry.
But the RMT has contrasted the progress towards a 2019 deadline in England and Wales with Scotland, where a ban has been in place since the end of last year.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash described the practice which sees track workers “routinely sprayed with human excrement and fleet staff left to scrape it from the bottom of trains” as “filthy and disgusting”.
He added that the end of 2019 deadline was too far away and it left rail workers exposed to a “daily health hazard of being doused with sewage” for another two years.
“That, quite frankly, isn’t good enough,” said Cash. “The blame for the slow move to action on this disgraceful practice that shames Britain’s railways lies at the door of the greedy train companies, and their reluctance to retro-fit tanks due to cost, and this government and its appalling attitude to the staff who work in the transport industry.
“There will be no let-up in RMT’s campaign to bring the dumping of raw sewage on the tracks to an end as soon as possible.”
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne at the launch of the new plan said: “It is disgusting, it really is quite disgusting that in this modern day we still think it’s acceptable to shower people with toilet waste. We now have an agreement with the Department for Transport (DfT) that by the end of 2019, no trains will discharge toilets onto the track.”
Last year, Carne said he had experienced the “disgusting” conditions first hand.
“You quickly learn to turn your back and close your mouth when you’re trackside and a train is passing,” he said. “As I know first hand.”