AUSTRALIAN RAILWAY STORY

Railway Voices CD: 29. 2001

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Roger Jowett National Secretary, RTBU

Since Railway Voices was produced in 1985, the number of railway jobs in Australia has gone down from 114,000 to 50,000. Cuts to services, line closures, new technology, contracting out and of course privatisation have hit hard. Back then there were just six government owned rail systems in Australia, plus a small private mine railway in Tasmania and the huge private Pilbara iron ore railways in Western Australia. Today there are over 28 companies the majority privately overseas owned which operate trains, maintain tracks and signalling, maintain locomotives and rolling stock, or own tracks. While the rail industry has fragmented, regulation has been abysmal, with safety for railway workers and the public being an obvious casualty.

Poem: The Fatal Train written and spoken by David Peetz

To the widowed father, it's like a bad dream
For the sake of his kids, he suppresses a scream
But if he'd been on time, might his wife not have been
Aboard the fatal train.
If a signal is broken, is a driver at fault
Should he have proceeded, or drawn to a halt
In the midst of each night, he wakes with a jolt
Reliving the fatal train.
The rescue worker, he's hitting the liquor
Obsessed by that image of pulse of bare flicker
Could he have saved her, if he had been quicker
Inside the fatal train.
But the almighty dollar, it feels no guilt
It knows not even that blood was spilt
Yet it cracked the tracks on which was built
The ride of the fatal train.

Roger Jowett

And the industry itself is a casualty forced to compete within itself, when the main problem is the massive advantage given to road freight transport. Rail unions have consistently supported rail modernisation where the employees and the communities they serve can be enhanced efficient transport services. But the rail unions have fought hard against the majority of rationalisations which have led to the harsh job cuts, and cuts to services and little or no investment to upgrade basic rail infrastructure to 21st century standards. Railway Voices are the words of railway workers, workers who have lived through this massive upheaval, workers who have lived the principles of democracy and collective action for the common good. I hope their voices inspire another generation to keep up the fight for workers rights, effective democratic unionism and a modern viable railway industry for Australia.

Railway Voices a CD of Australian railway workers stories with songs and poems