Train drivers protest at premiere of film 'that trivialises railway deaths'

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The Independent Culture

Leicester Square is no stranger to celebrities and their fans, who regularly turn out to see the stars tread the red carpet before Hollywood premieres.

But last night a rather different group of people gathered to greet the cast of Three and Out, Mackenzie Crook's latest film.

Protesting against the movie, which takes a comic look at the troubling phenomenon of fatalities on the railways, train drivers were keen to voice their anger at the "trivialisation" of their professional hazards.

The comic film is based on the fictional premise that if a driver hits three people within the space of a month they will be pensioned off with 10 years' full pay.

But the train drivers' union Aslef, which organised the protest, handed out leaflets yesterday to moviegoers warning them that "deaths on the railway are never funny". Simon Weller, an Aslef executive who has been a train driver for 20 years, said: "It's a very serious subject for us. It destroys lives. The drivers are never the same again. The film trivialises it. They are saying they have dealt with it sensitively. We don't think they have. We are being portrayed as having a sense of humour bypass, but there are certain things we don't find funny."

In Three and Out, which also stars Imelda Staunton and Colm Meaney, Mackenzie Crook plays a train driver, Paul Callow, who has already experienced two deaths on the job – both accidents – in the space of a month and realises that, if he was involved in a third, he could retire with a huge payoff.

Aslef is also concerned that London Underground gave the film-makers permission to use its facilities to make the film even after reading the script, and allows ads for it in the Tube, suggesting that showed "contempt" for its members.

A spokesman for London Underground said that it was often approached by production companies asking to use the railway as a backdrop for filming.

"Having had our officials examine the request by the film's producers, the Tube was allowed to be used as a location for a small number of scenes," he said.

The Samaritans said that Three and Out contravened its media guidelines "and could further add to the distress of people affected by suicide (including railway staff that regularly come into contact with rail suicides)".

Last year, 249 people ended up underneath trains, of which 194 were suicides. However, the deaths depicted in Three and Out are accidents and not people taking their own lives.

The film's distributors, WBE, said: "People who see the film will make up their own minds but we feel that by far the majority will see the difficult issues portrayed in the film have been handled sensitively and Mackenzie Crook's character delivers considerable empathy with Tube drivers who might have found themselves in the unfortunate situation of being involved in a fatality on the line."