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Laurance Holden
Connex South Eastern Limited

Press Statement

This is the full text of the press statement delivered on behalf of Laurie Holden by his solicitor Paul Maynard, to the media following delivery of the judgement of the Chairman of the Employment Tribunal on Friday 15th February 2002:

I have been asked to make a short statement on behalf of Mr Holden.

The judgement of the Tribunal today is a shocking indictment of both Connex South Eastern's industrial relations practices and it's attitude to rail safety. The Tribunal have expressly found that Connex are more concerned with their public image and cost savings, than they are about the safety of their staff and the general public.

Connex have been found to have breached two pieces of legislation - vital to running a safe railway. The protection for health and safety representatives from victimisation was introduced following the Piper Alpha disaster, in which 167 people lost their lives.

One of the catalysts for the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 was the Clapham rail disaster, in which 35 people died. The Hidden Report that followed that tragedy criticised the organisational culture of silence, which led to the failure of a rail inspector to report loose wiring for fear of rocking the boat.

That was 14 years ago. This judgement shows that none of the lessons of Clapham, Piper Alpha or Zeebrugge have been learned.

Mr Holden dedicated his life to the railways. He represented over 80 train drivers at Charing Cross and his two reports which lead to the victimisation catalogued the concerns being expressed to him by many of these drivers.

They exposed
  • a culture of long hours,
  • of drivers in the busiest rail network in Europe working 11 hour shifts without adequate rest breaks,
  • of drivers falling asleep at the wheel
  • of superficial and secretive investigations into Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs)
  • that the link between fatigue and SPADs was being covered up by the Company both internally and externally
  • that new driver training had been slashed from a minimum of 390 to 225 hours

Despite the fact that many of these criticisms were echoed by Lord Cullen's recommendations following the Ladbroke Grove crash, Connex remained in a state of complete public denial.

But worse - their managers embarked upon one of the most insidious campaigns of victimisation - perpetrated by middle ranking managers but instigated from the very top.

Mr Holden has asked me to say that he would like to thank his solicitors Clarke Kiernan and his Counsel Mr Laddie, for the efforts put in to ensure that the truth came out. For my part I would like to pay tribute to Laurie Holden. As with many whistleblowers, he has acted with great dignity, resolution and courage. The real tragedy of this case is that if there were more people like Laurie Holden on our railways there would be fewer Claphams, Hatfields and Ladbroke Groves.

For further details please contact Paul Maynard at Clarke Kiernan Solicitors, 2-4 Bradford Street, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 1DU.
Tel: 01732 360999
Fax: 01732 773355
E-Mail: maynard_paul@hotmail.com

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