December 2012 Lessons from Kings Cross

01 June 2013

Relatives of the 31 people who died in the Kings Cross fire met at the Underground station on 18 November to mark that day in 1987 when fire engulfed the building.


After Kings Cross, rules were enforced about smoking, wooden escalators were replaced, station staff training was improved, underground communications were reassessed and a new set of safety regulations for sub-surface stations was introduced.


I like to think these measures were some small consolation to the families of the dead; that changes that made the Underground safer for others could compensate a little for their losses.


But it irritated me to hear London Underground’s Chief Operating Officer complaining that the unions, and specifically the RMT, were ‘all wrong’ to ‘politicise’ the event by calling for the withdrawal of plans to cut staffing levels and extend maintenance schedules.


To my mind it was perfectly reasonable. Was it cynical of me to write at this time to the Mayor of London asking him to halt proposed public spending cuts of nearly £65 million which could mean the closure of 30 London fire stations? I think it was entirely appropriate.


Boris’ reply was non-committal, saying he hadn’t finalised the budget because of ‘uncertainty’ over the level of government funding.


I’ve raised the issue of the reduction of fire and ambulance services nationally on a regular basis, most recently at a meeting of union general secretaries and the rail regulator, the ORR. It is a real matter of concern to ASLEF that between them, the government and McNulty could leave us with no station staff, no fire-fighters, no ambulances and nowhere to take the injured anyway.


These issues are so serious and impact so directly on our members, I offer no apologies for raising them in any way and any place I can. It would be disrespectful to the Kings Cross dead for me to do otherwise.

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