Irish Rail bans re-usable cups because of safety concerns

Ireland’s state rail company has refused to serve hot drinks in re-usable cups because staff might suffer burns when filling them. 

Irish Rail was forced to defend the policy today, citing commercial reasons as well as commercial reasons, amid a barrage of complaints. 

The Irish government has unveiled a raft of policies aimed at improving the country’s green credentials, including a proposal to impose a 25 cent levy on all disposable cups.

On Monday a passenger on the Dublin to Cork intercity train tried to purchase a coffee using a reusable cup, but was refused. 

The passenger then contacted a popular current affairs radio programme, which picked up the story. Fellow passengers with similar experiences flooded social media.  

Jane Cregan, a spokeswoman for Irish Rail, told RTE, the national broadcaster, that only a cup of a certain size could be used safely on the trolley service’s hot water dispenser on its trains. 

She added that reusable cups came in a number of different sizes, which posed a safety risk to both the passenger and the Irish Rail employee.

“With the plethora of keep cup types, and volumes, and the importance from a staff and customer safety point of view of ensuring that both pouring and sealing on a moving train must be completely safe and robust, our catering provider on Intercity cannot currently support keep cups,” she said.

Hasel Chu, a Dublin-based councillor for the Green Party, tweeted Irish Rail requesting company statistics on how many staff and passengers had been injured using reusable cups.

Ms Cregan added that the company’s only way of calculating how many hot drinks it serves is through the number of disposable cups used.

“We recognise customer demand for a more sustainable alternative and hope to be in a position to address this as soon as possible,” she said.

‘Free’ tickets for train workers and families is costing France’s national rail operator €220m per year

France’s cash-strapped national rail operator SNCF spends €220 million (£188m) per year on free or cut-price tickets for staff and their extended families, according to the country’s state auditor.

In a scathing critique, the Cour des Comptes said the costly perk, which extends beyond workers to parents and grandparents, placed an unacceptable burden on the company and taxpayers and was depriving fare-paying passengers seats on full trains.

Current and retired French rail workers are entitled to a so-called “ease of movement” advantage, meaning they and their partners and children have access to free or 90 per cent-reduced train tickets.

The parents and grandparents of rail workers and their partners also have a limited number of free or reduced seats.

Despite regular calls for the advantage to be scaled back, its cost had risen by 20 per cent since 2011, found the auditor. Current SNCF employees only accounted for 35 per cent of the total cost, it said.

The number of passengers “evicted” due to lack of seats was costing the company €30 million a year, it added. One hundred SNCF employees are dedicated to dealing with distributing the free seats.

French rail workers have vowed to being the country to a halt with rolling strikes starting December 5 against pension reform Credit:  GERARD JULIEN/AFP

The criticism is likely to further infuriate unions just two weeks before they stage a nationwide, rolling strike on December 5 against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed overhaul of the country’s retirement system. 

The state auditor, which is advisory, also called for an end to automatic pay rises and bonuses for staff regardless of performance, and said workers must work longer hours and be more polyvalent as the rail sector opens up to foreign competition under EU rules.

It comes a year after Mr Macron’s ruling party enacted the deepest reform of the 150,000-strong SNCF since rail nationalisation in the 1930s.

The new law turned the SNCF into a joint-stock company, giving its management greater corporate responsibility, and paved the way to phase out its domestic passenger monopoly from 2020 and put an end to generous benefits and pensions for future employees.

The Macron government also pledged to write off €35 billion of the SNCF’s €47 billion of debt.

The Cour des Comptes said that SNCF must continue efforts to downsize its workforce by 2,000 employees per year and overhaul its organisation which is currently “very favourable to staff but not very favourable to productivity”. 

Train drivers who in theory should work almost eight hours per shift in reality work for just six hours and forty minutes, it said, adding that there was a problem of “under employment of certain staff members”.

The company must do more to stamp out “a high absenteeism rate in certain areas and a rising number of unavailable staff,” it said. 

Unions slammed the overview,  with CGT-Cheminots calling it “a digest of shortcuts and nonsense”.

UNSA said: “Once again, (the Cour) is fuelling a highly angst-ridden social climate and the stigmatisation of workers”.