About six months ago at Hamo Square station just by my house, Martin Zee, a Merseyrail Train Guard was going about his job in the usual way, preparing the Liverpool bound train to leave the station, when a horrible accident occurred.
As Martin turned to close the train doors, an 88-year old woman made a last minute dash to get on board, and as a result fell between the train and platform suffering head injuries. Paramedics were called to the scene and the woman was removed via ambulance to hospital.
I’m sure that we can all agree that it is horrible for this to have happened to anybody, much less somebody’s granny, who’s friend also took a turn on the way to the hospital as a result of the ordeal. What an awful thing for her family to have learned had happened. What a horrible thought for anyone with elderly relatives. This must also have been horrible for Martin Zee.
There are many health and safety procedures in place to prevent accidents like this from happening, the greatest being that you should never try to board a train while the doors are closing. Some stations also have train dispatchers, who give the all clear signal from the platform for the train to leave the station. These are not present at Hamilton Square, in fact I’m not sure they are present anywhere on our network.
As you would expect, six months of investigations by various bodies were set up to determine who was responsible for the error, to bring clarity on the situation for all involved and their families. The findings were unanimous. Martin Zee could not possibly have seen the woman trying to board the train, as he was following the policy and procedure put in place. This was not the fault of the guard.
Hearing this must have been a great relief to Martin and his family, who no doubt had suffered an incredibly stressful period whilst he was suspended. Surely, after all this, he would have been relieved to have been cleared and to be able to go back to work.
Unfortunately, in an unprecedented move, the British Transport Police are now moving to attempt to prosecute Mr Zee in relation to this accident. Despite the investigations’ findings, and answers being provided to all parties, the ordeal is not over for Martin.
But why? Why would anybody seek to prosecute this man when it’s clear as day he made no error? Some might say it is in the best interests of the company to allow him to be scapegoated.
Merseyrail are at the moment, like most train companies in the UK, pushing for driver only operation on their trains. This means there would be no guard as well as no dispatchers on the merseyrail network, and the safety of passengers would be left entirely to the driver – who I am sure you will agree already has a pretty big workload. Surely this incident highlights the need for guards more than ever – he may not have prevented the accident, but if he had not been there to see her on the rails, how much worse could it have been?
This is a very easy way for the company to take no responsibility for the cuts to safety measures and staff all over the network. If this can be proved to be the guards fault (which we can see has not been the case) then the company are in the clear to go ahead with their worrying agenda, blaming incidents like these on ‘bad apples.’
There is a huge part of capitalist culture that permeates every exchange of goods and services for money – the customer is always right. Holding to this idea above all common sense often does away with the rights of the worker and a lot company responsibility. It ensures the steady turnover of profit regardless of which worker must suffer degradation, and even now prosecution it seems. As long as the company name is protected and the customer is happy, regardless of their own error, then the affect of this on the worker is irrelevant.
This man did everything he was supposed to. It was a horrific accident that should not be repeated. But rather than accept that their safety measures are insufficient, certain parties will now try to railroad Zee into taking responsibility for something that was out of his control in an attempt to try to save a few quid.
This is the company that is responsible for your wellbeing when you travel – and as we can see train stations and railways can be dangerous places. They are proving themselves now to be unconcerned with their responsibility for public safety, and this abhorrent farce should not be allowed to continue.
I myself have been very concerned by Merseyrails safety measures in the stations I use. None of the stations near me have a lift, which often involves me dragging the baby up a flight of steep steps strapped into his pram. This is the only option, as the staff are not allowed to assist for health and safety reasons, and the alternative which is to remove him from the pram and carry him and it seperately would either leave him alone on the platform at two years old, or alone at the top of the stairs. So I am forced to take a risk with my child’s life, every time we take a train, because Merseyrail don’t think it financially beneficial to them to ensure public safety. I have long been disgusted with their attitude to their staff and the public, and this only cements my feelings.
My heart goes out to Martin Zee and his family. Solidarity to you brother, we will be with you in the dock should this circus continue.