Robert Hampton

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3rd December 2012

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

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.