World Toilet Day: Toilet Facilities are Essential

2022-11-19 -
A toilet in front of a grey tiled wall

Staff and passengers working and travelling on Britain’s railways deserve decent facilities. That has always been our belief.

And that is what we always press for in negotiations with the train and freight operating companies.

We will use World Toilet Day on Saturday 19 November – a United Nations observance day 'designed to inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis' – to again lobby the government, train companies and industry groups on the need for access to clean, safe, and appropriate toilets.

A photograph of a row of toilet cubicles and sinks which has text over the top: "Our terms and conditions say 4.5 hours max in charge of a train, which includes turnaround times. The only problem then is the distance to the facilities - at some of my stations it's more than a 10-minute walk from the platform to the toilets" - Female driver on commuter trains

That need was thrown into sharp focus on Tuesday 1 February when, in a tragic incident at West Worthing in West Sussex, a driver was killed when he stepped down from his cab to relieve himself.

The initial report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch reads: 'At around 20.33 hrs on 1 February 2022, a train travelling at approximately 33mph passed a stationary train that was waiting in a siding, around 300 metres to the west of West Worthing station.

'As it did so, it struck and fatally injured the driver of the stationary train, who had previously exited the train’s cab and descended to track level.

'The train driver who was struck had earlier driven his train from Brighton to West Worthing and had then driven it into the siding where the accident occurred. The train was timetabled to wait here for a short time before returning to West Worthing station and forming the next passenger service to Brighton.

'Train drivers should not normally need to leave their trains as part of their duties while waiting in this siding.’

The subsequent result of the RAIB investigation has not yet been published but there have long been concerns that the Class 313 stock has no toilets, and the West Worthing shuttle timetable does not allow drivers enough time to use a toilet between services.

'There had been previous complaints regarding drivers discarding bottles full of urine on the track at West Worthing and threats of disciplinary action for those caught doing so,' says Assistant General Secretary Simon Weller. 'We believe the driver who was hit had gone down to track level, in the dark, to urinate.'

The Office of Rail and Road has, separately, issued a damning improvement notice to the operator, GTR Thameslink: 'They have failed to provide adequate welfare facilities and arrangements for drivers and conductors operating Class 313 trains between Brighton station and West Worthing station. This includes toilets and the adequate time to access them.

'Therefore, as an employer, they have failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the welfare of their employees whilst they are at work.'

Simon Weller adds: 'Whilst an unusual combination of stock type, siding location – between the up and down running lines – and lack of facilities ultimately led to this tragedy, I do not believe it to be unique. We are seeking information from company councils on similar stock types without toilets and inadequate facilities at similar locations and will use the GTR improvement notice to effect changes at similar locations in other parts of the country.'

A photograph of someone washing their hands in a sink with text over the top which says: "When you go onto a freight site you can be 10 miles from anywhere with only the nearest bush as a urinal so you can guess the chance of any other requirements" - male freight train driver