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Network Rail's position

£28.5 billion will be invested in Britain’s railway infrastructure in the five years to March 2014, known as Control Period 4. Of this, £10 billion is to be spent on day-to-day maintenance and the costs of operating the network. In committing to this level of expenditure, the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) has demanded that Network Rail cuts its costs by 21% on top of the 27% savings delivered by the company since 2004.

Chief Executive Iain Coucher accepts that “we will be taking out heads where we can do so…We have got a comprehensive change programme that will deliver around ₤4.2 billion worth of savings over the next five years and that is the result of changing our work practices, finding better and more innovative ways of doing our work and removing waste from our processes.”

The high-output ballast cleaner - just one of the ways Network Rail hopes to cut costs.

Network Rail asserts that train-borne technology is able to carry out more reliable inspections than those undertaken by staff walking the tracks. It also claims that some tasks are currently performed by differing numbers of people in different parts of country. NR wants to standardise on the lower figure nationwide.

It insists that the number of compulsory redundancies will be minimised through redeployment, retraining and voluntary redundancies but accepts that there are parts of the country where that will not be possible. According to Coucher, the level of job cuts amounts to “roughly 10 or 15% of the people - it is not massive in the totality of our workforce. I understand if you are one of the 1,500 people, it is going to be painful and…difficult.”

But what about the safety implications? “We have a very robust safety change process - you would expect that of us. We are, of course, overseen by the safety inspector…and any time we make a material change in what we do, we must satisfy them that we are doing it safely.”

Source: Evidence to the Transport Select Committee (11th November 2009)

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