Fresh from their declaration of victory over the case of electrician Colin Atkinson and his palm cross, the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre have focused their aggression on train operator South West Trains (SWT) after the sacking of station clerk Ian Faletto.
Faletto has been dismissed by SWT on the grounds of gross misconduct. This follows an incident where he had ventured on to the track at Lymington Pier station to remove a shopping trolley. SWT acted after a manager viewed CCTV footage of him on the track. This much is not in dispute.
The Mail – and the Maily Telegraph – are painting this as “health and safety gone mad”, both papers taking advantage of SWT maintaining confidentiality over the matter to present Faletto’s take as gospel truth while putting the boot into SWT. In pursuit of this, the Telegraph has got Andrew Brown to pen a suitably judgmental comment piece, while at the Mail, Littlejohn called SWT “beyond disgusting”.
There is, however, a problem with this case: Faletto’s story doesn’t add up. He claims that, having seen the offending trolley on the tracks, he called the signaller to get the traction current turned off, and only ventured on to the track after being told that the current was off. But, it turns out, the current hadn’t been turned off. The signaller, though, is apparently not being disciplined.
Telephone calls to signallers are recorded. Moreover, the Telegraph account tells that Faletto also removed “a few other small pieces, such as tin cans” from the track. What was this, avoiding an accident, or a litter pick? And, although the incident occurred at 0830 hours, the station where he worked the ticket office (which wasn’t the one where he went on the track) didn’t open up until 1000 hours.
On top of that, the next train was not due for half an hour. And it is most unusual for a safety breach to result in dismissal. In fact, Faletto was not explicitly sacked for a safety offence, but on grounds of gross misconduct. What we do not know – because SWT are, quite correctly, not discussing the case – is whether Faletto had previously been given any warnings about his conduct.
Because ticket office staff do not normally have permission to work on the track. And the railway has been far more strict on employees’ hours in the years since the Clapham accident: Faletto had, by his own admission, put in a lot of extra hours and had not taken his holidays for five years.And, if he had been electrocuted after going on to the track, SWT would have had the book thrown at them, with the Fourth Estate in full condemnation mode, Littlejohn and all. We haven’t seen the full story on this one yet, and I’ll be returning to it later.