Search this site
Delude Retreat Indemnify Prevaricate Squander

"Seriously out of date"

Another argument over safety has emerged as Network Rail and two rail unions attempt to resolve their differences over the proposed restructuring of NR's maintenance organisation which will result in more than 1400 job losses.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has obtained documents showing that Network Rail has been failing to meet standards requirements for bridge inspections in its South East Territory. According to the union, the Office of Rail Regulation has warned NR that its regime was "seriously out of date" in this area. An Improvement Notice has been served giving the company until 31st March to ensure that the "current backlog of inspections" is carried out and "that an effective monitoring regime is put in place for visual inspections to ensure that they are carried out to the required standard and within the appropriate timescale", according to the TSSA.

...its regime was "seriously out of date"...

The row erupted in the hours before talks began between the TSSA, the RMT and Network Rail at ACAS, the conciliation service. These will cover two disputes - one involving maintenance staff and, later, a disagreement involving new rostering patterns for signallers. If no resolution is found, strike dates could be set on Thursday, possibly impacting on the busy Easter period.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that "There is growing evidence across the country that Network Rail’s cuts programme is already hitting the critical safety inspection regime hard and this reinforces our case that the company should now pull back from the brink before lethal damage is done. There is already a shortage of staff and to be axing maintenance posts and lumping extra work onto signallers under these circumstances is a reckless gamble with rail safety."
The consequences of failings in the bridge inspection regime were graphically demonstrated at Stewarton in January 2009.
Picture Source: RAIB Rail Accident Report (Crown Copyright)

But in an interview with Railnews, Network Rail chief executive Iain Coucher asked "Does anyone really believe that I and the rest of the Network Rail Board would allow safety be compromised? Of course not. And even if we tried, the Office of Rail Regulation is monitoring us very closely, and it is right that it should do so. It is true that the ORR had some concerns about our new maintenance plans but we are bottoming those out."

"Network Rail must become more efficient. People want a better, larger and more cost-effective railway. And a railway that is safe. We don’t compromise on that, and we won't. But the RMT is demanding indefinite guarantees of no redundancies - ever. That’s not a promise I can make, committing us for decades to come. No company could do that."

Coucher added that of the 1400+ job losses, 400 have already gone through natural wastage, and a further 1000 have volunteered to go. He insisted that no compulsory redundancies would be made this year.

Story added 23rd March 2010

Back to Death by a Thousand Cuts home page
Page Top

Front Page | Safety Valve | Jungle Ron | Newshound | Red Tape | On The Line
Four by Three | Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age | God's Own County | Image Library

© Four by Three 2014