NEWS.CATEGORY: Industrial

Call to investigate safety violations on strike day

Image showing computer screen with list of wrong routed trains

TSSA is demanding an investigation into rail safety after reports of multiple trains being sent in the wrong direction and some attempting to leave stations when signals were on red during yesterday's strike.

TSSA has received reports of trains being wrong routed – which can cause serious safety incidents if trains are sent onto unfit rails, as well as leading to service delays and disruption. The union also had reports of line blockages where signal boxes had been left closed and safety warning signals not engaged to alert train drivers, and further reports of stand-in staff trying to dispatch a train while a red signal was showing.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: “Any one of these safety violations could have caused a serious accident and put both passengers and rail workers at risk. We’re asking the safety inspectorate to urgently investigate these alarming reports and to ensure safe working is in place during tomorrow’s action.

“Safety must come first. Corners cannot ever be cut, including during lawful industrial action. Inexperienced or untrained staff must not be deployed into safety critical roles of any sort, but especially not signalling, control or train dispatch. We urge our members not to be pressured into work they do not feel confident of doing safely.

“The best way to avoid disruption is for the government to come to the table and resolve the dispute, not for unsafe working practices to be used putting staff and passengers at risk.”


The full text of the letter is copied below:

To: Ian Prosser, Chief Inspector of Railways and Director of Railway Safety


Dear Ian,

I’m writing to raise concerns over potentially serious safety violations on our railway yesterday, Tuesday 21 June and to ask you to investigate in your role as Chief Inspector of Railways and Director of Railway Safety.

You may have seen online some of the reports of trains being sent the wrong way yesterday. Images shared with us tally with those appearing on social media which revealed that a large number of services were sent in the wrong direction. That a serious incident didn’t occur can be only down to luck and the fact that so few services were running yesterday.

We are concerned that inexperienced people were brought in to cover signalling duties during lawful industrial action yesterday and it seems that as a consequence of that, a high number of wrong routes occurred. This obviously impacts services through incurring delays, but the potential safety impacts are huge.

As you know, signallers set the route for drivers to follow. If the wrong route has been set in error by the signaller and is not spotted by the driver in time, then passenger safety can be at risk. If trains are wrong routed onto lines which are not fit to carry certain types of trains, that could have serious consequences.

Additionally, we have had reports of managers trying to dispatch a train against a red signal, with two managers reportedly tested for alcohol and drugs as a result.

We also received reports of line blockages where signal boxes were closed, no signaller was on duty, and protected signals were not set at danger. We are concerned that contingency plans allowed for line blockages to be made without signals being set at danger (to alert drivers in enough time to reduce speed) and therefore putting workers at greater risk.

We ask you to urgently investigate safety concerns over staffing practices on Tuesday 21 June during lawful industrial action by the RMT union. We urge you to call for such practices to be halted in any further strike days to prevent a serious accident or similar safety breach occurring and to stop employers trying to draft in inexperienced staff to cover safety critical specialised duties such as signalling and control.

Passenger safety must come first on our railways. Political or industrial point scoring to try and keep services running during a dispute is a minor and petty approach and we hope you will agree with us that passenger safety is more important.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Manuel Cortes


Yellow and black toolbox labelled: Health and Safety TSSA

Health and Safety Toolkit

Health and Safety Toolkit - Download TSSA's guides and resources for Health, Safety & Welfare Reps.

Get your hands on the toolkit

Info and resources

Find out more about our campaign for pay, job security and stronger terms and conditions

The word 'ballot' written in red with a crowd of people looking at it

TSSA Ballots Overview

Details of the timeline of existing ballots for strike action and action short of a strike issued by TSSA.

The top third is a red background with white text. The text reads Our Rail Our Future. Both "ours" are underlined with gold railtrack.
The middle third is white with red and black text which reads "TSSA strike ballot Vote Yes!   
There is a cutout panel with a white background in which are 8 cartoon figures in railway uniforms from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
The bottom third is read with white text reads "Vote YES in your TSSA ballot". There is a black tick next to the text.

Our Rail Our Future

We are in dispute with Network Rail and all DfT train operating companies over pay, job securty and terms and conditions. Find out more about our campaign.

Find out more

More from TSSA

Get more from your membership with workplace advice, legal services and money-saving benefits.

Man in a suit holding a sign which reads: redundancy rights

Employment Rights

From redundancy to TUPE, discrimination, tribunals and more - read our advice guides here.

Lawyer and client discussion over a desk with documents. Photo By WIRUL KENGTHANKAN from Canva.

Legal advice

TSSA members can access legal services, including a free will writing service, personal injury, family law and more.

TSSA Benefits image saying 'Save ££ with TSSA Benefits'

TSSA Benefits

TSSA members have exclusive access to a range of money-saving offers and benefits.

TSSA Helpdesk

0800 328 2673 United Kingdom

1800 805 272 Republic of Ireland

Helpdesk Enquiry Form

Member advice from our Helpdesk

If you are a TSSA member and are looking for advice or assistance in connection with your employment or membership, you can contact our Members’ Helpdesk.

We can advise on a range of workplace issues including; discipline and grievance hearing, maternity rights and redundancy.

Helpdesk opening hours: 09:00 - 17:00 Monday - Thursday  |  09:00 - 16:00 Friday

Please note: we cannot undertake to provide advice to non-members, to members of other unions, or to members on behalf of their partners/friends. If you are not yet a member, please join TSSA online.