Chris Philp, the sometime van driver who has somehow risen to the role of self-appointed media expert on business matters while also finding time in a busy schedule to act as MP for Croydon South, has now volunteered to be a human guinea pig willing to test an unproven safety system by having infrared light shone into his eyes for six hours a day.
What other conclusion can anyone draw from the latest nasty missive, published by the Tory MP on his website?
In this week’s piece of pompous bombast, Philp calls tram drivers “selfish” for having the effrontery to object to having an untested light system installed in their cabs without any meaningful consultation, or their agreement.
Last week, Philp was “defending the rights” of 40,000 “employees” of Uber, the tax-dodging taxi app operators who have fought expensive court cases to prove that they don’t have any employees. This did not end well for Philp, when the chief exec of Uber apologised and admitted there were many aspects of his company’s operation which required improvement were they to keep their operating licence from Transport for London.
There’s been no apology or admission of error coming from Philp, however.
Now, far right-winger Philp has weighed-in to a simmering dispute between tram drivers and their managers, once again taking the side of big business, rather than seeking to understand a more nuanced outlook. Or the facts.
The dispute has arisen as all sides seek to find a safer way to operate the Croydon tram network, following last November’s tragic derailment at Sandilands, where seven people died and 51 were injured when a speeding tram overturned. Early analysis of the cause of the accident, which occurred when the tram was taking a sharp bend at 46mph in a 12mph speed limit area, suggested that the driver had “lost awareness”.
There have been several reports, before and since the crash, of drivers being asleep at their controls. TfL’s own figures have found 128 instances of trams breaking the speed limits in the six months following the Sandilands disaster.
Meanwhile, other investigations have found that the “dead man’s handle” failsafe device fitted on the tram network and intended to bring the vehicle to a halt if a driver loses consciousness has failed on several occasions.
Tram cabs do have CCTV fitted, but at the time of the Sandilands derailment the cameras showing the driver were not functioning.
Tram drivers recently voted overwhelming to take industrial action over their management’s decision to fit an infrared camera monitoring system in their cabs.
Cue faux outrage against the union – ASLEF – from Tory Philp. Because in the Thatcherite playbook, all unions are bad.
Philp ignores that 96 per cent of ASLEF’s tram driver members voted for action. According to Philp, “The driver’s union ASLEF… has decided to strike in opposition to drivers’ cabs being monitored.”
This is a blatant deception and untruth from Philp on two counts. One, the union did not make any decision. Its members voted for it, democratically (as Tory anti-union legislation demands).
And second, they are not opposed to drivers’ cabs being monitored.
Drivers’ cabs are already monitored, by CCTV. Philp fails to mention this.
The drivers’ objections are borne out of entirely reasonable concerns for their own well-being, and their eyesight. The system being installed by Tram Operations Limited, the First Group company which operates the network for TfL, is untried and untested. It uses infrared light to monitor the drivers’ face, and eyes, while they are operating the tram.
“The company has failed to consult prior to the installation of devices,” a tram driver who voted for the industrial action, told Inside Croydon. “We have serious safety and welfare concerns about infrared devices monitoring our eyes constantly.”
Which is not quite the same thing as being opposed to having their cabs’ monitored, as Philp deviously tried to claim.
In fact, the tram drivers support the introduction of another, tried and proven, safety device which is already being used on tram networks in Europe.
“There is another safety system, Simove, which would prevent another Sandilands incident,” the driver said. “It is tried tested and fully operational on Spanish tramways and has our full support.”
Simove, however, is more expensive than the system which Tram Operations Limited is installing on the Croydon network.
Because after seven people lost their lives when taking a tram to work last November, it turns out that Tram Operations Limited is trying to install safety devices on the cheap, as they put a price on passenger safety.
Oddly, Tory MP and friend of big business Chris Philp failed to mention this.
But we’re sure that he will do his utmost to show that the system being installed, without the agreement of the tram drivers, is safe for them to use by sitting in a tram cab for six hours and having the light shone into his face.
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Infra red? Sounds unhealthy, even dangerous, to me. Who knows the effects on drivers of having their eyes and faces constantly scanned by infra red light? It might affect their sanity, as well as sight.
Any scientific study would assess this for years under lab and trial conditions.
With due regard to Chris Philp’s guinea pig role, there’s a huge difference between to a one-off exposure and day on day exposure for a decade or more.
What if it affected 1 in 50 drivers adversely– like the flickering strip lights which affect many of us, disrupting the optic nerve messages, resulting in confusion and inability to concentrate. Do these people lose their jobs, not because of any error on their part, but because of introduction of an unsafe system into the workplace? How fair would that be?
With regard to tram driver concentration, has anyone undertaken an analysis of the issue, and compared it with bus and coach driver concentration?. There should be a lot of investigation into this on the continent, where modern trams have been in service for much longer than Tramlink.
Do tram drivers lose concentration because they don’t have to constantly contend with other road users, and second-guess their next moves, so losing alertness, and developing a sense of disconnection from reality?
Public safety, and driver safety, demand sensible and open questions and answers on this issue.
Is there no one in our govt and local govt and business that supports govt that can do a proper cost benefit analysis?
Those of us who have worked in the private sector have to do this all the time and I have found after many years that the cheapest bid is rarely the best bid over more than a yearly term.
Also the cheapest bid often has the risk of failure when the bidding company cannot sustain the personnel it requires to do the job at the price they are forced to offer to win the bid. WE ALL KNOW THIS so why is it a problem when the union points this very obvious fact out?
Management theory I was taught in the 80s and 90s said that if you wanted to know how to deal with shop floor problems Er….. ask those who deal with those problems on the shop floor, they will know more about “the job” than you do.
Do we not teach management to management any more ???? In that case listen to those who have a clue, and MANAGE how to afford the extra up front cost to get the better system in place der…..
Thanks Peter Bell for highlighting the real business reality of “Penny wise, Pound foolish” decisions.
Whilst cheap is not necessarily bad, when it comes to complex systems, and safety, the important thing is to get the right solution, one which is technically right, but also one in which users can have confidence.
If drivers are not confident about the new safety system, they are going to suffer anxiety and stress.
The nagging worry that infra-red waves scanning your face for 36 hours a week, x 48 working weeks a year, might be affecting your sight, skin and brain, is hardly going to take away driver stress, which surely can’t be good for them or for safety?
Asbestos was a wonder product, making the world a safer place, or so everyone thought, until some decades later, it was found out to be a killer. What about Infra -red?
Tricky Dicky was better than this 21st sentury Arthur Daley