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TRADE UNIONISTS claimed victory today as Network Rail pledged to dump the practice of flushing human excrement onto railway tracks.
Many of Britain’s older trains have toilets which do not have effluent tanks but instead simply plop waste onto the track. Passengers are asked not to flush while the train is in a station, but track workers are still left to toil alongside the unpleasant residue.
Rail union RMT has kicked up a stink over the issue for years, arguing it is unsafe. Now the infrastructure authority has pledged in a business plan to eliminate the practice by the end of 2019.
“No trains will discharge toilets onto the track by this time which will significantly improve the working environment for our staff and help us to provide a work place of dignity and respect,” the plan says.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “For years now we have been promised that the filthy and disgusting practice of dumping raw sewage on Britain’s railways, a practice which sees track workers routinely sprayed with human excrement and fleet staff left to scrape it off the bottom of trains, would be called to a halt.
“It’s only through long, hard campaigning by RMT that we now have a pledge for the end of 2019.”
RMT said the slow progress in England and Wales could be held in contrast to Scotland, where the union won total cessation of track-dumping by the end of last year.
“It leaves rail workers in the rest of Britain facing the daily health hazard of being doused with sewage for another two years and that, quite frankly, isn’t good enough,” Mr Cash said.
“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 retrofit tanks due to cost.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents private rail operators, said: “Rail companies take this issue seriously.
“As part of our long-term plan, working in partnership with Network Rail, train companies are eliminating the discharge of toilets onto tracks by the end of 2019, either by upgrading current trains, or through the delivery of £13.8 billion investment in 7,000 new carriages across the country by 2021.”
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