Union claims victory in tube tracks noise row
RMT suspends drivers’ go-slow industrial action after concessions
11 October, 2019 — By Samantha Booth
GO-SLOW industrial action by tube drivers over track noise has been suspended after last-minute talks that union bosses declared as a “massive victory”.
Drivers were due to drive slower on the Central, Jubilee, Northern and Victoria lines from yesterday (Thursday) which union RMT said would mitigate the excessive noise coming from tube tracks on certain stretches.
RMT halted the action and said transport bosses had agreed to a list of union demands after discussions on Wednesday afternoon. These include introducing speed restrictions in multiple locations from today (Friday) to mitigate the noise impact and Transport for London making available £10million to cover remedial works.
They also say, in the long term, a rail-fastening system installed to help lessen the noise in homes above the tracks, which TfL say in some areas made the din in tunnels louder, will be removed.
An Extra investigation revealed earlier this year how some sections of the Northern line are as loud as a rock concert. A deluge of complaints has been sent to TfL about the noise.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is a massive victory for the union, for our members and for RMT’s strategy of declaring appropriate industrial action to leverage negotiations with the employer.”
He added: “The action is suspended but the dispute remains on and we remain vigilant as the agreed programme is rolled out.”
Another union demand met was an increased programme of rail-grinding to bring down noise, to be monitored by health and safety reps in a “preventative manner with an agreed formula and level of noise”.
Extra reporter Samantha Booth investigating tube noise
TfL has announced there will be no Northern line night tube on October 12 and 19 and November 9 and 16 to carry out rail-grinding to try to reduce noise levels. They say an enhanced programme of grinding has already been implemented on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines.
The transport authority has insisted that Health and Safety Executive guidance suggests tube noise is highly unlikely to cause any long-term damage to hearing.
Earlier this year, trade union Aslef threatened to ballot for industrial action if their demands for over-the-head ear defenders were not accepted. Ear plugs had previously been provided by TfL but the union said these were not enough. It was agreed ear defenders would then be provided for drivers.
One driver said at the time that the noise levels between Kentish Town and Euston are “beyond anything I can describe”.
TfL said pads had been installed on tracks to dampen noise and change the frequency to a less sharp one and a new rail baseplate was being trialled on the Jubilee line between Baker Street and St John’s Wood.
A TfL spokeswoman said: “Following constructive engagement with the RMT on the plans we have to tackle tube noise, we are pleased they have suspended their industrial action.
“The health and safety of our staff and customers is our top priority and we will continue to progress a number of immediate and longer-term plans to help solve this complex issue.”