Management Of Charing Cross Flooding Came Close To Ending In Disaster

TUBE UNION RMT today demanded an urgent review of safety procedures and an assurance that crucial lessons have been learnt after an internal report into the flooding of Charing Cross station by water from the Trafalgar Square fountains two weeks ago revealed that the incident almost ended in disaster.

On the morning of 24th March, a pipe feeding the Trafalgar Square fountains was severed by contractors with the result that 375,000 litres of water flooded in to Charing Cross tube station. LU activated their “Silver Control” procedure, overseen by Chief Operating Officer Howard Collins, and shut down services and began pumping out the water.

Throughout the incident log it was clear that there was pressure to get the service back on as soon as possible. At 16.38 a decision was taken to turn the current back on, that request was just about to be actioned when it was realized that there were still staff on the track at Embankment. That lack of “command and control”, admitted to in the report’s findings, could have led to a disaster.

In their “Silver Control” conclusions, LU admit that:

  • Charing Cross should have “remained closed to all traffic”
  • There should have been one single point of contact to “monitor track access” at both Embankment and Charing Cross
  • A member of staff should have been logging “staff/contractor movements”
  • “ALL involved” should have been using “correct lines of communication.”
  • Senior management involved in the day did not have the appropriate FIM (Formal Incident Management) training.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“RMT is demanding urgent assurances that the kind of shambolic management that happened at Charing Cross on 24th March, guided right from the very top, should never be allowed to happen again. We were just seconds away from a potential tragedy and the LU internal report says clearly that those failures were down to poor communication, lack of appropriate training and an absence of proper command and control. A year away from the Olympics Londoners will be rightly shocked at these findings.

“Our fear is that the combined pressure to keep services moving at all costs, tied in with the Mayor’s £7.6 billion of cuts, will make matters even worse and rather than their usual barrage of misinformation we want Boris Johnson and his officials to start taking this crisis management of the tube seriously before we have a disaster on our hands.

“We are already in the process of balloting for action on the Victoria Line over major safety concerns and we will have no hesitation in taking similar action to protect safety on the tube network.”

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