Dangerous Waves

From 'RMT On The Trains' newsletter, August 2008

Connect Radio: The Risks to your Health and Safety

Most lines are now fitted with the all-singing, all-dancing, new shiny Connect radios; 8 years late and god know how much over budget! There are 2 concerns your Trains Health and Safety Council reps have about this system: one is the move to Phase 2, which will see drivers take authority to pass signals at danger over the radio, and the other is the TETRA waves associated with the radio system.

The problems with moving to Phase 2 of Connect are that there are still many concerns that have yet to be addressed. There is still the problem of cross traffic, when we somehow manage to pick up messages from other controllers on other lines. One Bakerloo Line rep, driving north at Embankment Station, picked up the Circle Line controller, calling a train with the same number and telling him to reverse at Edgware Rd. Of course, there is no such move on the Bakerloo Line! If this message had been to pass a signal at danger, as Phase 2 wants us to do, accidents will happen! Anecdotes like this are numerous. We are just not ready for combine-wide Phase 2.

The more serious issue of TETRA waves that the Connect system functions on is also far more complex. The crucial question is this: are these waves dangerous? The answer appears to be that no-one is entirely sure. There are reports for and against the safety of this system. The only way we will get concrete answers is over a long period of time and in the meantime, we are the guinea pigs. LU will tell you that we operate within the National Radiological Protection Board’s (NRPB) safety limits. Reassuring, you might think until you hear that the NRPB’s safety limits are 3,300 units compared to Poland’s 100 units and Russia’s 10 units. Not so reassuring after all!

As a result of the concerns of your safety reps, Bob Crow has recently asked LU to release all our safety reps for a full discussion of the issues with experts in the field in attendance. This request was denied by LU. What do they have to hide? Our understanding is that the discussion will go ahead regardless and all reps are encouraged to attend.

Another concern is the sheer amount of radiation that drivers are now subjected to in a confined space over long periods of time. As well as Connect, we have CCTV and a raft of other equipment at close quarters. This cannot be safe! Copies of Connect studies will be forwarded to your local reps. If you wish to view these files, just ask for a copy, or email any member of the Safety Council for more information.