‘German lessons for rail staff’ as union warns of takeover

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RAILWAY staff are having to learn German so they can work with a computer which will not speak English, a union claimed.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) yesterday claimed that some of its members had to learn a list of German phrases in order to use track analysis equipment introduced in Kent by Network Rail.

The RMT reminded the nation that European free-market rules had already allowed German operator Deutsche Bahn to become a major player on the British network and Siemens to beat Bombardier of Derby to a contract to supply new trains for Thameslink.

The union’s general secretary, Bob Crow, summed up: “EU diktat is driving a German corporate takeover of Britain’s railways.

“Profits that could be invested in our services are instead spirited out of the country without touching the sides.

“It is extraordinary that the German companies can’t even be bothered to translate their safety instructions into English and instead UK rail workers have to take responsibility with crash courses in O-level German”

But a Network Rail spokesman said Mr Crow was confusing two issues. The offending computer in Kent was needed for a signalling refit and was the best machine for its job. It had been chosen from Germany rather than imposed by Germany. Unfortunately, it was true its display only worked in German.

The spokesman said: “Nobody has to learn German, even to O level. They only have to learn to recognise about 20 phrases which tell them what reading they are getting. Obviously if it was easily possible to reprogramme the device into English, we would have done it, and that possibility is being explored.”

The argument quickly became a war of words and it was hard to pin down exactly what the machine in question was. It appeared to have something to do with counting axles passing over a section of track.

For the benefit of rail buffs, the Yorkshire Post can reveal that it throws up diagnostic messages such as Kdo abgew AZGR ANFORD Grund Betrieblich (“Reset requested but not carried out due to section being clear”).