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Navigators, The (2001)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Yorkshire, 1995. Railway workers Mick, Paul, Gerry, Len, John, Jim and their colleagues are told by their supervisor Mr Jackson that due to the recent British Rail privatisation they are now working for East Midlands Infrastructure, and competing with rival track companies.

During a maintenance job, Jackson orders one of the workers to leave, because he works for Northern Infrastructure. He takes his equipment with him, making the others' job impossible. Four men take voluntary redundancy.

Paul (who is sleeping on Mick's sofa) brings flowers to his estranged wife Lisa, who refuses to let him in to see their daughters.

Len clears out his locker after 43 years' British Rail service, reminiscing about his career. Leaving, he meets Bill, who started on the same day but is now in management.

The railwaymen are introduced to their new managing director, Mr Hemmings, via a video about the age of change in Britain's rail industry. Hemmings says that the culture will change too, and the days of a job for life are over, though new opportunities have arisen for those prepared to take the initiative.

East Midlands Infrastructure is renamed Gilchrist Engineering. Gerry complains to Jackson about proposed changes to the clocking-off procedure, imposed without consultation. He wins a concession that they don't have to clock off on Sundays, though his colleagues point out that they've always had this.

Hemmings visits Gilchrist in person and tells Bill that the slat has been wiped clean, and that all previous agreements with the union are now void. Bill reluctantly agrees to withdraw the clocking-off concession, on pain of being forced to resign.

Jackson tells the men that the Sunday concession has been withdrawn, which leads to a huge argument with Gerry. Gerry actively looks for Health and Safety breaches, threatening to ring the Railway Safety Inspectorate.

After taking his daughters skating, Paul brings them home and Lisa tells him that the Child Support Agency has been asking about him. He says he can't afford to pay any more, and that there's no more overtime available.

To the railwaymen's surprise, Jackson orders them to destroy their old equipment with sledgehammers as it no longer meets current standards. They are interrupted with news of a derailment at Dore. There, they meet Len, who's working for an agency and earning much more than he did before.

After his pay is deducted by £110 for additional child support, Paul agrees to take voluntary redundancy and follow in Len's footsteps. John follows suit. Mick and Gerry try to talk them out of it, pointing out that the downside is no more job security.

Handing in his redundancy form, Paul asks Gilchrist secretary Fiona out for a drink. They go back to her flat, but a romantic clinch is interrupted by her daughter Rose.

Jackson tells Mick, Jerry and their few remaining colleagues that Gilchrist's workforce is now too small to be competitive, and they're given twelve weeks' notice.

Mick visits an employment agency and discovers that while work is available, there's no sick pay and he has to pay for his own transport and equipment, as well as compulsory training courses. He goes to a job, where he discovers that they're four men short and two of them are builders with no railway experience. He argues with the supervisor, and is unemployed for weeks following negative reports. He finally manages to get a job, which turns out to be a reunion with his former colleagues Gerry, John, Jim and Paul. This is marred by a passing train spewing toilet waste over them.

Paul, Mick, John and Jim are given a job concreting a signal base, but they have to mix concrete on top of a nearby bridge. Jim is injured by a passing train. Mick insists that they move him to the roadside and claim it was a car, as they could be barred from working for breaching safety procedures.

Jim dies from his injuries, and his former colleagues attend the funeral. Bill says it's ironic that he spent his life making the railways safe only to be hit by a car. Gerry is now the only one remaining at Gilchrist, and his job ends on Friday.