London, Oct. 19 (Reuters): One of Britain’s most powerful unions has threatened to bring London’s creaking underground rail system to a standstill with strikes after a train derailment today, the second in just 48 hours.
As many as six passengers were injured when two carriages of a train left the track at a bustling station in north London, and on Friday evening a suspected broken rail forced another train off the tracks in the west of the capital.
The hardline RMT rail union said its workers’ lives were at risk. It blamed the accidents on shoddy maintenance of the track under contracts awarded by the government to private companies.
“We may have to take action to protect our members,” an RMT spokesperson said on today, just hours after the accident.
“We will recommend to the RMT executive and to other unions about taking action if the government, the mayor, or the commissioner (of Transport for London) does not suspend those maintenance contracts,” he added.
Strike action, which would bring chaos to the capital, would take several weeks to arrange.
The derailments and the potential industrial action are particularly embarrassing as the capital vies to host the 2012 Olympics.
Today’s derailment brought Camden Town station, on the network’s Northern Line, to a standstill as police, fire engines and ambulances raced to the scene. The cause of the accident was unknown.
The station is one of the capital’s busiest on a Sunday as Londoners and tourists flock to Camden’s markets and cafes. “At the moment, there are five, possibly six injured, including one man possibly with a broken leg,” said Colin Markham, a spokesperson for London Transport Police.
The accident follows a derailment at Hammersmith station on Friday on the Piccadilly Line that rail authorities said may have been caused by a broken rail. Nobody was hurt.
In January, at least 32 people suffered minor injuries after a packed underground train derailed as it pulled into Chancery Lane on the Central Line.