Tube strike: The next walk-out is still on - as unions raise 'emergency' safety concerns

Talks started again on Wednesday after being delayed when the RMT complained to the rail regulator

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The Independent Online

Negotiations are back underway to avert another 24-hour Tube strike, after a union broke off talks to raise "emergency" safety concerns over untrained staff directing trains.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) reported London Underground to the rail regulator for “winging it” by managers without safety licences to direct Tubes out of depots and on to tracks, using an "air traffic control-style" system.

The move delayed talks between London Underground and unions – who plan to walk out for the second time in a matter of weeks on 5 August over the planned introduction of the new ‘Night Tube’ in September.

Talks resumed on Wednesday after proceedings were delayed on Tuesday, while the RMT gave evidence of the safety concerns – rejected by LU - to the Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR), which enforces health and safety on the railways. A spokeswoman for the ORR said they were investigating.

All four unions – the RMT, Aslef, the TSSA and Unite – are back round the table with LU at Acas, the conciliation service to discuss objections over rostering, increased night shifts and pay.

Finn Brennan, lead negotiator with the Aslef drivers’ union, tweeted a picture of the new Night Tube livery – complete with wry commentary.

Union sources said no progress had been made on the dispute, which led to the last strike – which shut down the entire network for the first time since 2002 when 30,000 workers walked out – on 8 and 9 July.

Geoff Martin from the RMT said of the safety concerns: "Seeing the trains out of the depot is an incredibly skilled job. They have an air traffic control system to get them out and it requires years and years of training and certification. They were winging it.”

The RMT argues that London LU is operating with too few staff on weekends, when the new Night Tube is set to operate.

But Steve Griffiths, chief operating officer of London Underground, said safety of passengers and staff was “top priority” and that the ORR had already signed off their safety procedures, which had been “fully risk assessed and approved”.

The ORR said that it the hearing with the RMT could have been deferred to allow for the talks to continue. The spokeswoman declined to give details of the safety investigation, though she said that the role of the regulator was to oversee general health and safety plans and not individual incidents.