Safety fears follow Tube flooding

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The Independent Online

Rail union leaders today called for an urgent review of safety procedures after claiming that an internal report into a flooding incident at a Tube station in London showed it almost ended in "disaster".

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said the leaked document revealed that flooding at Charing Cross station last month, caused by a burst water pipe in Trafalgar Square, could have led to a "tragedy".

The union claimed that because of pressure to get Tube services running again the power was about to be turned back on when it was realised there were still staff on the track.

The pipe was severed by contractors working in Trafalgar Square, leading to 375,000 litres of water pouring into Charing Cross underground station.

Tube services were halted and the water was pumped out, but the RMT accused management of a "shambolic" response to the incident.

General Secretary Bob Crow said: "RMT is demanding urgent assurances that the kind of shambolic management that happened at Charing Cross, guided right from the very top, should never be allowed to happen again.

"We were just seconds away from a potential tragedy and the LU internal report says clearly that those failures were down to poor communication, lack of appropriate training and an absence of proper command and control. A year away from the Olympics, Londoners will be rightly shocked at these findings.

"Our fear is that the combined pressure to keep services moving at all costs, tied in with the Mayor's £7.6 billion of cuts, will make matters even worse and rather than their usual barrage of misinformation we want Boris Johnson and his officials to start taking this crisis management of the Tube seriously before we have a disaster on our hands."

The union is balloting for industrial action among workers on the Victoria Line over "major safety concerns" and Mr Crow warned he would have no hesitation in taking similar action on other parts of the network if there are further safety concerns.

A Transport for London spokesman said: "Our staff worked tirelessly during this incident to restore services on the Bakerloo line within eight hours of severe flooding shutting this section of the railway.

"London Underground has an excellent and improving safety record, and staff work to well-rehearsed plans to ensure the safe and swift recovery of service following serious incidents such as this.

"LU is as a matter of course carrying out a full review of the response to this incident, which will take on board the views of everyone involved, and will take any steps necessary to address any concerns or reinforce safety procedures."

The internal report said Westminster Council contract staff working on the Trafalgar Square fountain were believed to have damaged the water pipe, leading to "extensive flooding" in the nearby Charing Cross station and the evacuation of passengers.

TfL said the internal document quoted by the union was not an official report, but forms submitted by staff on duty that day which will be considered before a final report is written.