Robert Hampton

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3rd December 2012

Not all it’s cracked up to be
Posted by at 8.18pm | 1 response | In the News, Trains

Plumbers around the world are jealous, as a five-inch crack is discovered on a Yorkshire railway line. The BBC’s oh-so-informative report goes like this:-

A gap in the railway line near York which was created by a cracked rail could have caused a “major tragedy”, the RMT union has claimed.

The RMT released a photograph of a 5in (13cm) gap on the East Coast Mainline at Colton Junction, and said it could have derailed a train.

But Network Rail said “as soon as a crack in the rail was reported, trains were stopped”.

The organisation said no staff or passengers were put at risk.

The RMT though said that was “total garbage”.

It goes on like this for several more paragraphs, with claims by the RMT each followed by a rebuttal from Network Rail. The RMT say its dodgy and unsafe, Network Rail say nobody was in danger. Obviously both sides have reasons to say what they say and want to persuade the public.

Is this a scandalous tale of a safety failure on the railway, or is it a union overreacting to a track defect? I have no idea. The article gives no information or analysis to help me understand whether I should be worried or not.

The BBC has a commendable commitment to impartial reporting. Unfortunately, all too often, their idea of “balance” is letting each side have a say and making no effort to analyse or filter their statements.

This results in a load of “he-said-she-said” articles like the one linked to, with no attempt at fact-checking or independent verification. As a reader, I am no more enlightened than I was when I started reading the article.

It’s slightly better than sensationalised and one-sided tabloid reporting, but not by much.

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One Response
  1. Comment by Jamie
    3rd December 2012 at 9:30 pm

    It’s RMT over-reacting. And I speak as someone very critical of NR and ATOC and very pro the way the unions (RMT, TSSA and ASLEF, to differing degrees) are the only ones who currently speak sense about the state of our railways.

    RMT have failed to gain traction (ho ho) with the media in any of their campaigns *except* when they mention safety – mainly because they link back to the media’s own reports on Hatfield and the like and thus flatter the journalists involved.

    When they mention safety, the media react immediately with the usual kneejerk and RMT get a headline. I can’t blame RMT for this course – it works, after all – but the last thing anyone needs is for car drivers (who believe themselves to be 100% safe when it’s actually something like 85%) to think of the railways (actually 99.99% safe) and be put off; or rail users going back to their significantly more dangerous and polluting cars for spurious “safety” reasons.