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Cuts? What cuts?

Announcements are been made on a daily basis about the new government’s cuts. Local councils are having to reduce their costs in many areas of activity. In the North East, reports are coming thick and fast, and becoming more bizarre by the day. One council nearby has said that all double yellow lines will now be single while the depth of water in its swimming pools is to be reduced by 15 inches, but only at the deep end.

One of the government's rail experts considers whether to axe cesses or executive bonuses.
Photo: David Reece

We understand that the ConDems have set up a committee to look into ways that the rail industry might make cuts. The target - as with all government departments - is 25%.

You will recall that the Tories’ privatisation bill of the mid-90s was pushed through with the help of those two esteemed railway experts Gyles Brandreth and Sebastian Coe, both Conservative MPs at the time. No doubt Westminster's mandarins will again invite some equally qualified experts into its think tank, probably Lorraine Kelly and Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards. Their list of potential cuts is not yet complete but these are the current highlights -

  • with immediate effect, the four-foot will become the three-foot and any residual Great Western broad gauge will be reduced by a minimum of 40%
  • ballast will be replaced with saw dust
  • double yellow signals will be replaced by single yellows
  • the third rail power rating will be cut to 12 volts DC
  • Three Bridges Station will have one of them removed
  • only left boots will have toe protection and, when replacements are needed, staff will be issued with one size smaller than their last pair
  • wearers of HV over-trousers are to be given HV thongs
  • all four wheel drive vehicles will be replaced with newly developed Trotter three-wheeler vans
  • platform numbers are to be reduced with no station allowed platforms running into double figures. The practice of splitting platforms into A B C and even D portions is to stop immediately.

A far-reaching plan to make all railways Hornby 00 gauge was rejected when it was learned that ‘Wallace & Gromit’, the principal relaying company, had gone out of business

Standards Committee chairmen have met daily over the past four months and come up with no less than three cost saving measures. To bring down printing expenses, all important paragraphs will now only be identified by a bullet point. The use of numbers or letters with an associated bracket will not be permitted. The minimum size of a Rimini pack will be slashed from four reams to three whilst the back four pages of the Line Blockage Form - on which the COSS and signaller record their shoe size, star sign and inside leg measurement - is only to be submitted in triplicate rather than octuplicate.

The minimum size of a Rimini pack will be slashed from four reams to three...

Top executives have decided to cut their working week by a quarter so now they will just turn up for 3.8 hours per week including seminars and liquid lunches.

Of course it’s not all bad news. Thanks to a vote of 37 to 31 with nine abstentions by Network Rail’s public members, rail bosses are getting massive increases in bonuses. Maybe those 37 would like to let us know why they consider Coucher merits a £641,000 bonus; why Henderson, Director of Asset Management, merits a £460,000 bonus; why Kirby of Investment Projects merits a £331,000 bonus; why the rest of the directors merit over £100,000 each in bonuses.

No wonder it’s a ‘not for profit company’ - there can’t be much left after those payouts. And that money is on top of already over-inflated salaries that could have been better invested in the rundown infrastructure. A handful of top managers accepted payments of over £6.1 million, of which more than £2.3 million is in the form of bonuses. Where’s it all coming from? - you, me and even the tax-paying staff who Network Rail are making redundant.

The reaction of the new government may be to cut subsidies even further so the executives will no doubt use that as an excuse to make more redundancies and impose worse conditions.

Looks like another fine mess.

Story added 1st August 2010

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