Transport union the RMT has expressed safety concerns over reports that inmates at Moorland Open Prison in South Yorkshire had worked night shifts on the West Coast main line from London to Glasgow.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow expressed ‘alarm’ and ‘anger’ that Network Rail, which owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure, had not previously discussed the matter with the union.
He said: “We are not opposed to the idea of offenders being rehabilitated through work, but not at the expense of workers in the industry, not if it is about cheap labour, and certainly not if it involves safety-critical work.
“We will be seeking an urgent explanation from Network Rail, not least on why on earth we were not consulted over an issue in which our members clearly have a crucial interest,” Crow said.
Network Rail said all works on the railway is properly accredited, trained and supervised at all times.
A spokesman said: “Network Rail is committed to tolerance, diversity and equal opportunities. The rehabilitation of prisoners through training and career development is an important social issue and, sadly, still attracts prejudice. As a modern company and a key employer across the communities of the UK, we support these formal schemes as they are all about finding appropriate work for people who have demonstrated that they deserve a chance.”