Rail workers may strike if action is not taken over a ‘potentially fatal’ outbreak of legionella on Thameslink trains, a union has said.
The RMT union said it was in a dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) after “actionable traces” of legionella were found in seven toilets, on four trains.
The most recent traces of the bacteria were found on 9 August and the union was advised the train would be removed from operation where “reasonably practicable”, or the toilets would be “isolated” if the train remained in service.
The union said GTR’s approach was “half-hearted and inadequate” and accused it of “gambling with the health of passengers and staff alike”.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “RMT has been raising concerns over legionella on the Siemens Thameslink fleet for weeks now and the latest cavalier approach from the company is pitifully inadequate and is an outright gamble with passenger and staff health.
Health and safety
“We have now declared a dispute and be in no doubt if we don’t get serious action we will ballot our members and do whatever is required to end this reckless approach to a potentially lethal situation on these increasingly busy trains.”
Thameslink train services director Rob Mullen said: “A very low level of legionella was found to be present during testing in a small number of our Thameslink Class 700 train toilets.
“While it is extremely unlikely this would cause any harm to passengers or colleagues, the toilets affected were immediately locked out of use. The trains were taken out of service and these toilets have now been completely drained, bleached and had their tanks re-filled. There is no recorded case of anyone, ever, having contracted legionella from a train.”
The rail operator said all trains would now be tested as a precaution and said that there were no trains in service with known traces of legionella.