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Call to end ‘utterly disgusting’ sewage dumping on tracks

Train toilet sewage is still being dumped directly on the tracks, rail unions have warned, with no regard for track workers.

The RMT warned that it was a potential health hazard, and transport minister Baroness Kramer agreed that it was “utterly disgusting”.

Modern trains are fitted with toilet tanks, which are pumped out at the depot, but older trains still discharge sewage on the track. The InterCity 125 trains will be replaced from 2017 by new rolling stock, but there are other old trains which should be updated.

At a debate on rail privatisation at the House of Lords, Baroness Kramer said: “This is just utterly disgusting and I think it does speak to the fact that customer service has not always been at the centre of railways because customers I think are very concerned about this issue.

“It is a tougher issue on the local diesel trains which are gradually going out of service and we could indeed use some help from the industry in trying to tackle that problem.”

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “It really is a shocking indictment on the state of our railways 20 years after privatisation, and with hundreds of millions of pounds a year being creamed off in private profits, that raw sewage is still being dumped on the tracks up and down the UK.

“Not only is it a filthy way of disposing of effluent, but it also poses real health risks and dangers for RMT members out there working on the tracks.

“It should be stopped and the train companies should be the ones who pay the price for upgrading the trains and employing staff to empty the tanks.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: "The rail industry takes this issue, and customer and staff feedback, very seriously. Investment in new rolling stock since the mid-1990s means the majority of trains do not have to discharge waste onto tracks, and we continue to find ways to modify older vehicles. The minority which do not have toilet tanks fitted will reduce further as new trains are introduced."

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Andy Coles   15/11/2013 at 14:23

The Technology is already in place to deal with this it's funding that's lacking

Henry Law   15/11/2013 at 20:45

Good, but the present on-train systems leave a lot to be desired. I spent four hours on a Voyager recently. The smell of sewage hit you when you stepped on the train and one never got used to it. Sewage gas contains toxic hydrogen sulphide and I felt sick when I stepped off the train, having taken breaks by the open door whereever this was possible. The Pendolinos are as bad. Amazing that these trains have been in service for over a decade and yet the problem has not been resolved. There could be a lot to be said for concentrating the toilets into as few vehicles as possible, which might also allow for other facilities such as a shower for passengers's use (or staff use, for that matter).

Pnjarvis   16/11/2013 at 11:32

Has the ORR no powers to deal with this?

Pedr Jarvis   30/11/2013 at 14:27

The risks are not only to track workers but to staff maintaining the vehicles. Sometimes alterations can be made to vehicles to reduce the risk to works staff, and often enough it should be possible to fit retention tanks too. Some railways do not foul the tracks and indeed never have done so - and not just those who don't provide lavatories at all!

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