Friday, 19 March 2010

Barriers to Barriers

Highland SNP MSP Dave Thompson has been conducting a concerted campaign to get ungated level crossings across the rail network outlawed. There have been so many incidents of people being caught out at these crossings and an appalling 21 our of 23 open level crossings are in the Highlands.

Some parts of the media wholeheartedly backed Dave's campaign, and Network Rail's response to mounting criticism of their unwillingness to address the problem seems to have been two-fold; first, they suggest that the cost of fitting half barriers would be one million pounds a shot - yet in Denmark, similar structures cost a mere £200,000; second, Network Rail has sought to smear Mr Thompson and his campaign, by selectively quoting an email from an industry expert who had initially not been in favour of the campaign, but who has subsequently come to agree with him that barriers are needed, subject to proper assessment, at several Highland crossings.

Network Rail's press release had the temerity to describe Mr Thompson's campaign as 'increasingly hysterical and biased', and worse, when contacted by his office, Network Rail's PR people sought to deny all knowledge of the press release they had issued.

So clearly, Network Rail seem determined to continue to put up barriers to the eminently sensible proposal to fit barriers at these level crossings, but there is another issue here too. Had this been a Labour MP in Westminster, would Network Rail have dared to describe him as 'hysterical and biased? Would they have dared to attempt to deny knowledge of their own press release? Would they have felt it appropriate to be so dismissive of an elected member of parliament?

There seems to be a different view of elected members to the Scottish Parliament and to the Government of Scotland itself. UK organisations seem to think that they are above the need to respect Scottish politicians. It's perfectly reasonable for Network Rail to baulk at the costs of introducing barriers at open level crossings - and the public can make their own minds up as to the priority the organisation attach to safety.

But it is not reasonable for an increasingly hysterical and biased organisation to attempt to discredit a hard working politician in an effort to divert attention from their own lack of action.

No comments:

Post a Comment