Memorandum by Howard Robert Hoare (CHT
RAIL FREIGHT AND THE CHANNEL TUNNEL THE TRAIN
I welcome the opportunity to be able to put
my thoughts before the Committee. I have laid them out in numbered
paragraphs in no particular order of importance.
Before writing this report I sought the opinions
of my colleagues and they all gave me their support.
1. I am a train driver at Dollands Moor.
I am employed by English Welsh and Scottish International Railway
(EWS Int.) I am also one of the drivers local representatives
and Trade Union Official (ASLEF) Branch Secretary. I started work
as trainee train driver in 1974, and I have been driving freight
trains through the channel tunnel since 1996.
2. I have grave concerns about the deteriorating
conditions that I have to work under whilst carrying out my duties
in the Frethun freight yard, in Calais. The asylum seekers roam
around the yard day and night without any apparent fear for their
safety walking in front and alongside moving trains.
3. There have been recorded instants where
asylum seekers have stood in the path of a train as it has left
the yard causing the driver to make an emergency brake application,
when the train stopped it was "swarmed" by asylum seekers
who had climbed over the fence.
4. My members are concerned that as the
asylum seekers become more desperate they will resort to further
extreme measures, maybe trying to force entry into the cab of
the locomotive. Although we keep all locomotive doors locked,
there are times when we have to walk around the outside of the
loco. (Two locos coupled together, examine loco. for faults etc)
in the yard surrounded by these people. A driver has been offered
a "stack" of dollars to take him and his colleagues
to England. Another driver has found asylum seekers sitting on
the buffers between a pair of locomotives.
5. I have recently been in a position of
some apprehension. It was 02.00 in the morning I was waiting on
my locomotive for the train I was to work to England to be made
ready. I was waiting on a line which runs adjacent to the much
photographed and filmed inadequate fence. Asylum seekers were
climbing over the fence, sitting on top of the fence, standing
around in large groups, waiting for an opportunity to board my
train after the loco had been coupled. I had to wait for approximately
two hours, with all this activity around me becoming increasingly
paranoid as to whether every unusual noise was someone trying
to enter the loco cab.
6. In October 1997 I was the driver of a
train that knocked down and killed two young men on a foot crossing.
It was 05.25 on a foggy Saturday morning. I know what it's like
to be involved in a fatality, every day when we are driving trains
in France we are faced with this scene as a real possibility.
If this were to happen we would find ourselves in a country where
we don't speak the language or have any idea of the legal consequences.
It's this and many other problems of driving trains in France
in the current climate that's making my job increasingly stressful.
7. We have recently had an Occupational
Health Nurse visit Dollands Moor Depot, her time was limited and
she only managed to see a few people. One of these drivers has
been removed from train driving duties in France until he has
received adequate counselling. Two more are to be reviewed in
one month's time.
8. If our experiences were to be repeated
anywhere else on the BR/Railtrack network drivers would refuse
to work under such conditions. I think one of the reasons we persevere,
is because we do not wish to jeopardize further the dire financial
position EWS Int. is in by refusing to work the few trains that
are left running.
9. We are aware that EWS management at all
levels has been very supportive in maintaining jobs at Dollands
Moor. I wish I could say the same about the British Government.
They do not appear to have shown any interest in our plight, we
feel very isolated at Dollands Moor and can only hope the Government
give these problems the importance they deserve.