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King's Cross Fire Remembered 25 Years On

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KING CROSS FIRE
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Transport trade unionists marking the 25th anniversary of a devastating Tube station fire today demanded the scrapping of proposed staffing cuts.

Dozens of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) gathered outside King's Cross station in London to remember the thirty-one people who died there after a fire on an escalator began on the evening of November 18 1987.

Thought to have been caused by a dropped match, a subsequent public inquiry into the tragedy led to tighter safety standards on London Underground.

But the RMT claims that Mayor of London Boris Johnson's "threat" to cut station and platform staffing levels and introduce driverless trains would make the Underground unsafe again.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow laid a wreath at the foot of a plaque inside the station dedicated to the victims' memory.
He said: "We are here today first of all to show our sympathy and our condolences to the people who lost their lives 25 years ago.

"I worked for London Underground 25 years ago, I remember that night still vividly.

"It could have been me travelling home, my family, my friends, it could have been you, it could have been anyone that particular night."

Mr Crow said the recommendations made after the fire had made the Underground safer, as witnessed during terrorist attacks and emergencies on the Tube over the last quarter of a century.

"What we are seeing now is a number of people who want to reduce costs if they can," he said.

"We can't allow for the accountants of Transport for London or the Government to try and reduce the staffing and make it unsafe for London Underground workers and the people that use the Tube."

More than 100 people were taken to hospital after the King's Cross fire.

One of those killed was fireman Colin Townsley. He was posthumously awarded a certificate of commendation for his bravery, as were five other firemen who survived.

Smoking was immediately banned on all parts of the Tube after the fire and wooden escalators were replaced.
For many years, the identity of one of the 31 victims of the disaster remained a mystery.

But, finally, in January 2004, the 31st victim was named as 72-year-old homeless Scotsman Alexander Fallon.

Sophie Tarassenko, whose brother Ivan died in the incident, told the BBC: "I'd always hope in a system that carried millions of people a day like an airline, that safety would be the last thing compromised as a result of financial cuts.

"The welfare of the travelling public has to be uppermost."

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