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Drainage gangs ended with rai lprivatisation - one ex-BR worker comments

Drainage gangs ended with rail privatisation

By The Bristol Post  |  Posted: February 03, 2014

MY first encounter with flooding was in 1968 when Brislington village flooded and I didn't live far away from it. I can vaguely remember seeing black and white pictures of Bedminster, Keynsham, and Pensford suffering quite badly from the heavy downpour that year.

Then in 1979 I joined British Rail and went to work for the slip and drainage gangs.

They maintain the drainage of the track and the ditches along top and bottom of railway cuttings and embankments.

After the railways were privatised in 1993 the slip and drainage gangs in Bristol, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Chippenham, Swindon gradually disappeared.

Along with them went the length gangs who had a crucial local knowledge of troublesome areas that they maintained.

I still read with interest stories about the severe weather battering the railway network, causing landslips and major disruption.

Whenever this happens it leads to engineers working flat-out to try rectify any problems and restore services.

But the problems prompted by sudden downpours do not surprise me at all.

For privatisation has led to cut-backs in manpower and in turn less maintenance. If ditches along the top and bottom of railway cuttings and embankments, along with counterforks cut into cuttings and embankments and drainage in the track were maintained better, we probably would not see the severity of disruption to rail travel. This is because the number of land slips and fallen trees blocking the lines would be reduced.

In my opinion British Rail did a good job with limited funding to maintain the rail network.

But privatisation is about making profits for the shareholders.

And the travelling public are picking up the tab with the highest fares in Europe.

Meanwhile they are forced to travel in crowded carriages in cattle truck conditions.

The trains themselves are in many cases old. And whenever there is heavy rain they face regular delays.

In my view the entire railway network needs to be better maintained.

I can remember when joining British Rail I attended a track-man's course relating to safety procedures, line speeds, direction of approaching trains and where to stand in a position of safety until a train passed.

As part of the course I read a civil engineers' handbook. It included a comment that remained with me.

It was simply this, that the most important part of the track infrastructure is the drainage.

Food for thought?

(Written in a personal capacity)

Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Drainage-gangs-ended-rail-privatisation/story-20548285-detail/story.html#ixzz2sFQgv7ou

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