Union sympathy with Grayrigg family

02 March 2012

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union ASLEF, spoke today of his ‘enormous sympathy’ with the family of Grayrigg derailment victim Margaret Masson. On the very day that Network Rail admitted it was guilty of safety breaches that led to Mrs Masson’s death, its chief executive at the time of the crash, John Armitt, was feted at Buckingham Palace and given a knighthood.

‘It is an appalling error,’ Mick says. ‘What message does this send to company bosses about their responsibilities for safety in the workplace?

‘It is a smack in the teeth for the family and the whole industry, including train drivers.

‘The message is that if safety is ignored, senior managers will walk away without sanction or a stain on their name. They can still pick up a knighthood even if their company freely admits it is responsible for a death.

‘This is a tragic day for the Masson family, an affront to everyone who works in our industry and warning to every working person in the UK.’

Mrs Masson’s son George Masson says Mr Armitt should be immediately stripped of his honour. It is, ASLEF says, very difficult to disagree.

The former rail chief says he accepts that ‘the accident at Grayrigg happened on my watch’ and that he understands the family's ‘distress and anger’. But he has as yet shown no practical evidence of his professed emotions. He left Network Rail six months after the Grayrigg crash to become chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority.

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