RAIL workers who are “regularly doused with faeces” as train firms dump directly onto the tracks called yesterday for Network Rail to take a hard line and force operators to install sewage storage facilities by next year.
Under current practices, when passengers use the toilet on a train, the waste is simply dropped onto tracks when the toilet is flushed.
After falling from a speeding train due to a lack of sewage tanks, the waste disintegrates and spreads to the sides of the tracks.
Rail track maintenance workers come into contact with the detritus as they carry out their work and risk their health.
Rail workers’ union RMT says privateer firms have been dodging dealing with the problem, which could be easily solved by installing sewage tanks on carriages to collect waste for sanitary disposal later.
It has been campaigning for almost two decades for installation of sewage collection tanks on carriages and recently won a major victory when the Scottish government gave cast-iron assurances that ScotRail’s 38 trains would be converted by December this year.
Network Rail, the government-owned company responsible for maintaining the rail network, has said it intends to phase out the practice “by next year,” and has introduced new regulations.
But the RMT is calling for a “clearly defined cut-off point” after which rail operators will be prosecuted if they fail to comply, as operators have been resisting shelling out on the conversions. The union also wants assurances that rail operators will not be allowed to side step new regulations.
Southern Rail has already avoided the cost of installing sewage tanks by completely removing toilet facilites from trains on its Brighton to Portsmouth route — and has used the space to install more passenger seats.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash has written to Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne calling for a “clearly defined cut-off point with no exemptions or derogations.”
He also said that “punitive action” should be taken against train companies which flout the regulations and that new rolling stock should be required to have sewage tanks.
Mr Cash said yesterday: “RMT has fought long and hard to end the filthy and disgusting practice of dumping human waste on Britain’s railways and we are sick and tired of being fobbed off with warm words and vague targets. We want cast-iron guarantees and we want them now.
“It is outrageous that wealthy, profiteering private train companies have been allowed to get away with this scandalous abuse for so long because they are too greedy and tight-fisted to bring it to an end. The financial responsibility for ending this scandal should fall to the rail rip-off merchants and not the British taxpayer.”
In a message to the government he said: “It is time for them to get their house and their industry in order and show some support for the workforce for whom a dousing with faeces from a passing train is a regular occurrence.