BBC Scotland managed to report this with no mention of the UK Government’s responsibility for the safety of rail infrastructure leaving viewers to think perhaps that the SG is late in reporting for fear of getting the blame.
Just after the crash on 14 August 2020, we saw James Cook attempt to confuse.
On BBC Scotland’s The Nine last night, James Cook, repeatedly interrupted the Scottish Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson to say:
Well, exactly! Well, that’s rather the point! Isn’t it. We hear that are these problems. In 2014, a report specifically mentioned this exact area being greatly affected by earthslips. A report last month warned that there had been over six times more flooding events in the year to 2019/20 and earthworks failures nearly trebled. Did you read that report? And if so, what action did your government take on it?
For whatever reason, Matheson did not expose Cook’s misrepresentation of the responsibilities for rail infrastructure and allows him to burst in again with a further implication.
Let’s be clear. Rail infrastructure is a reserved matter, presumably in case the UK Government ever feels the need to use it for some strategic purpose which the Scottish Government might object to and try to obstruct.
Full responsibility for the funding, the maintenance, the inspection and the warning to operators of risk, lies with the UK agency Network Rail which in turn is responsible, only, to the UK Minister. The report was a report for that UK minister and though the Scottish Government may or may not have received a copy, it could not have acted upon it.
Why was Cook not aggressively asking Grant Shapps, the UK Minister for Transport, the questions he misleadingly threw at Matheson?
The day before the Times had suggested where the blame lies:
In the Times this morning, the shocking accusation:
A stretch of railway where three people died when a train derailed and slid down an embankment after huge storms was identified in 2014 as being “greatly affected by earthslips”, it has emerged.
I can’t see the actual source for this dramatic claim which would, if true, cast the UK rail safety regulator and its inspectorate in a very negative light.
The ORR annual health and safety report published in July 2020, of which much is being made, does not in fact, offer any specific evidence that could be used to criticise the inspectorate or the department on the maintenance or checking of the actual place of the incident.
Then on the 19th, I founding this damning evidence of the UK Government’s culpability:
Writing today on wsws.org, Steve James, says:
The horrifying train wreck near Stonehaven, Scotland, last week, was the result of the dilapidated condition of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Starved for decades of essential maintenance funding, the railways have been transformed by successive governments into state-subsidised cash cows for private corporations.
Network Rail’s cost-cutting: It carried out a reduction of its maintenance staff by 12 percent between 2009/10 and 2013/14, down by 2,169 to 15,813. Then it set a target of 2019 of further cost-cutting of 20 percent.
No sources for the above figures are offered but can be checked I’m sure.
James finishes with a wider point:
As with the Grenfell Tower disaster and the coronavirus pandemic, the Stonehaven rail crash exposes the systemic elevation of profits above the safety of the population. Every area of life is being subordinated to the accumulation of wealth by a super-rich elite and the corporations they run.
I don’t suppose wsws.org is in the Reporting Scotland editor’s bookmarks.