Plans by Euro MPs to turn Britain’s railway network metric have been slammed as an “unacceptable safety risk”. The orders from the European Commission which are now being debated by MEPs in Brussels would mean the scrapping of all trackside signs currently in miles and yards, the Mail reports.
They would be replaced instead by kilometres and metres which would cost network rail hundreds of thousands of pounds to replace. In addition, training manuals will be rewritten following an order from the French-based EU Quango the European Railway Agency.
There are more than 10,000 miles of rail track in Britain, and drivers are accustomed to calculating speeds and distances in the imperial system.
Risk Analysis by the Rail Safety and Standards Board said problems could occur if staff have to switch between metric compliant trains and those using tradition imperial measurements particularly measuring speeds in miles per hour.
A trial of the new diktat on a remote line between Shrewsbury and West Wales has been blamed for a series of problems since its implementation including five trains in the last five months passing red signals.
The line’s operator, Arriva, said that staff had reported difficulties when they introduced the metric measurements on the route which was originally designed in miles.
UKIP Transport Spokesman Jill Seymour MEP has condemned the move, which the British government tried to opt out of in 2012.
The Department of Transport applied to the European Commission citing the concerns raised by the industry and the cost, but were ignored by Eurocrats.
Mrs Seymour said the “totally unnecessary move” would cost a fortune, cause chaos and could even lead to accidents.
“The EU wants all metric signage, which the rail unions have already described as possible causing a safety issue.
“Financial pressure on British rail companies is already forcing ticket prices up above inflation, hitting all passengers in the pocket.
“These ill considered and unnecessary plans can only make the pressure worse.”
“The UK is clear that distance signs must be in miles, not kilometres; there is no reason for any change in that, other than the EU flexing its muscles,” she added.
And Train Drivers’ Union Aslef described the move as “a waste of money”.
General Secretary Mick Whelan said the spending on the switch over would “would be better spent on keeping fare increases down.”
‘It is also an unacceptable safety risk to expect train drivers to cope with signalling data which switches between mph and kph depending on which bit of track they are on.’