The Potters Bar train disaster that killed seven people could be repeated if railway job cuts go ahead, a union representative has warned.

The comments come as the first day of rail strikes take place with only a fifth of trains running and half of all lines closed.

Stewart Cameron, RMT's Watford branch secretary, said: "The government wants to cut 2,000 maintenance jobs and replace their jobs with drones.

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“We believe that’s going to be highly unsafe and it’s only a matter of time before we see another Potters Bar, Clapham or Watford crash.

“They were all due to poor maintenance.”

Seven people died when The West Anglia Great Northern passenger train, travelling at 97mph from Kings Cross to Kings Lynn, derailed at a faulty set of points at Potters Bar on May 10, 2002.

Mr Cameron added he is disappointed that the national media has not made it clear who is striking and why.  

Watford Observer: Rail strikers outside Watford Junction.Rail strikers outside Watford Junction.

He said: “I know that the media likes to spout out that train drivers are on £55,000 a year.

“But every single person here is either station staff, ticket office staff, revenue staff, or track maintenance people and their average wage is £24,000.

“On this particular picket line and this train operating company, I am not aware, as a branch secretary, of any train drivers that are in the RMT.”

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union say that strike action is in response to proposed job cuts, fair pay, pensions and working conditions.

Mr Cameron also claimed that it is the government who has walked away from the talks.

He said: “The government said we walked away from the negotiation table. That is an absolute lie.

“The government is tying the hands of Network Rail and the train operating companies and stopping them reaching a settlement.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Network Rail’s plans will enhance safety by using the latest technology to keep more engineers off the track and out of harm’s way.

“That can and will save lives and help avoid track worker tragedies.”

The spokesperson added that any job losses have been voluntary, and that the government has always been available for talks.   

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