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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