Sunday 3 November 2019 7:21 pm

'Dirty business': Rail firms will still be dumping raw sewage on the line next year

Rail operators have been forced to backtrack on a promise to stop the “dirty business” of dumping excrement on tracks by the end of the year.

Network Rail and a number of train companies have admitted the 2017 promise – to stop using carriages whose toilets flush sewage directly onto the track by the end of 2019 – will be broken.

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The chief executive at the track and rail operator at the time, Mark Carne, said in 2017 he had made the government agree to end the “disgusting practice” by 2019. The Department for Transport (DfT) had assured that all franchises would force companies to make sure carriages had modern toilets by the deadline – but a number of operators have applied for extensions.

East Midlands Railway has been given the green light to drop human waste onto railway lines until 2023, between London St Pancras and cities including Nottingham and Sheffield. However, a spokesperson said they were on course to have stopped the practice by the end of 2020.

They said the franchise, which is run by Abellio, has fitted the “vast majority” of its trains with tanks – but not all of them. The remaining carriages will be retrofitted or removed, they added.

They said: “We completely support the drive by Network Rail to remove all trains without controlled emissions toilets by the end of 2023 and are already working towards having all our trains operating with tanks by the end of 2020.”

Other operators still dumping sewage on the line include Northern, West Midlands, Scot Rail and Transport for Wales, according to the Observer.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “Both train operators and the government promised two years ago that the toxic practice of trains dumping raw sewage onto the railway would be over by this year.

“This dirty business stinks and is yet another broken promise from ministers and train company bosses who have proved time and again that they cannot plan the rollout of new rail infrastructure and trains in any sort of co-ordinated way.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “We want train operators to remove the trains that discharge waste on to the tracks as soon as possible. We are investing in a huge fleet modernisation to end this disgusting practice which has no place on the kind of modern railway this Secretary of State wants to deliver.

“While the vast majority of trains no longer carry out this outdated practice, a very small number of trains will continue into next year in exceptional circumstances only, while the operators introduce their new fleets.”

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A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are committed to putting an end to trains emptying waste onto the tracks and we are working with all operators to make this happen.

“There are a few train companies that have been given a bit more time for a small number of their trains and we are tracking their action plans closely to make sure they comply.”