July 2006 - Drivers cabs are not fit for purpose

01 June 2013

Train drivers are professional people. We are entrusted with great responsibilities, our work is essential to the running of the country and every day tens of thousands of people put their lives in our hands.

It is an affront to us all that most of us carry out this work in an environment that is uncomfortable, unpleasant and therefore unsafe.

Last month we had a period of very hot weather. Rails buckled in the intense temperatures rails that are made of iron. So isn't it reasonable to assume that ASLEF members being flesh and blood - are going to succumb to heat in a similar fashion?

I heard a story last month that summed up the attitude taken by UK managers towards the conditions in which train drivers work. It seems that EWS decided to sell a number of its 56 Class fleet to a French company.

Before our Gallic neighbours would take them, however, they wanted a few adjustments made: specifically they wouldn't take the engines until air conditioning had been put into the cab. French drivers would not tolerate the conditions imposed upon us for good reason.

Ask yourself, which is safer a driver in an air-conditioned, clean and comfortable cab with an ergonomically designed chair and the sense of respect that goes with it or an overheated worker in a grubby box? The answer should be self-evident and it is.

Managers know this better than anyone. Do you think the chief executive of your TOC sits boiling in a grimy room all summer, hanging his head out of the window for air? Does he sit at his desk with his overcoat on all winter, blowing into his hands to keep up the circulation? Of course he doesn't.

The trains we drive are increasingly sophisticated and comfortable, because that is what customers want. They want electric points at their seats, internet connections in the carriage and comfort for their journey. They want a clean environment with easily available services at their disposal.

I fully support these views and I contrast it with the mucky technological desert endured by the driver up front.

This must change. This year ASLEF will take up that challenge. Companies talk about respect for their workforces. I believe the most obvious indicator of that is the physical conditions they offer to you at work and ours too often are sordid and insulting to professional people.

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