Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Terrible Anniversary

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the King's Cross fire, when 31 people died because London Underground didn't have sufficient fire safety procedures.

As a result of the fire, the Fennell Report made over 100 recommendations, and LUL improved its fire safety through measures such as banning smoking, getting rid of wooden escalators, and providing radios for all staff. The Home Secretary made use of his powers under Section 12 of the 1971 Fire Precautions Act to introduce the Fire Precautions (Sub-Surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989, which insist that there must be at least two staff on duty at all times, that they must be trained, rooms must be adequately compartmentalised, and there must be systems that detect, contain and suppress fire.

'Sub-surface railway stations' include not just London Underground, but the other metro systems in Tyne & Wear, Glasgow and Merseyside, plus several national rail stations, including Birmingham New Street. for those of us who work in them (I'm a Stations Supervisor on the largest London Underground station, but I'm required by my contract to say that my comments here are my own, not those of my employer), the 'Section 12 regulations' are etched into our whole approach to our job. They came too late to save the 31 casualties of 1987, but have certainly save countless lives since.

Which it is why it is so alarming that the government has been trying to whittle away at them over the last few years. RMT and FBU are giving optimistic signals about the latest talks, and there are some interesting reports on this webpage.

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