This Sunday, 18 November will mark 25 years since a ferocious fire swept up the Piccadilly line escalator at King’s Cross underground station during evening rush hour, killing 31 people in the ticket hall.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union has announced it will be commemorating the victims and highlighting safety concerns by demonstrating outside the station at 11am on the day.
RMT secretary, Bob Crow, said in a statement that the demonstration was partly in response to a confidential London Underground document seen by the union last year which indicates proposals to “impose an unattended network including automated trains and would necessitate the ripping up of the safety regulations, including minimum staffing levels, which came about in response to the tragedy.”
A public inquiry (download the Fennell report) following the King’s Cross fire criticised London Underground for its complacent approach to fire safety. Smoking in the tube itself was only banned in 1984 after the Oxford Circus fire, but not on the escalators nor ticket halls. The King’s Cross tragedy led to a ban on smoking in all areas the network, five days later. And the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989 was also enacted.
But some of the report’s recommendations were still not in place some 20 years after the fire, and an emergency services radio network that works above and below ground only seems to have been finally rolled out three years ago.
In October last year the union revealed a confidential London Underground report discussing the prospects of measures such as closing all but 30 ticket offices, putting station managers in charge of several stations at once and cutting 1,500 jobs in all. Some changes carried a timetable of 2016.
London Underground’s response was reported as: “This discussion paper was prepared purely to stimulate fresh thinking within London Underground. It has not been adopted by LU senior management, the TfL board or the mayor and so does not represent agreed proposals for change.”
The leaked paper is available to view here on the union’s website.
There is a public memory box for the fire on Friends Reunited.