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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
January 28, 2009

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Track cuts risk new “Hatfield”, warns union

Rail union RMT has accused Network Rail of putting passenger safety at risk by planning cuts in its railway track renewals.

RMT claims that Network Rail has ordered the deferral of 28 percent of its track renewals programme, after the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) ordered the track operator to make efficiency savings of 22 per cent.

The union’s general secretary, Bob Crow, claims that the cuts will also lead to a reduction in the frequency of track inspections and routine signal maintenance. He said: “The 22-per-cent efficiency savings demanded by the ORR are being translated into a massive assault on planned renewals, inspections and maintenance that raises the spectre of another Hatfield or Potters Bar.

“The government has said it will create jobs, and it beggars belief that in the current economic climate Network Rail should be allowed to contemplate a massive cut in renewals work that is not only essential for safety’s sake but will also benefit the economy too.”

Engineering firm Jarvis confirmed that Network Rail will “significantly” reduce spending on track renewals. A statement from Jarvis said: “The company can confirm that Network Rail has communicated an intention to significantly reduce its track-renewals volumes and expenditure in the year to 31 March 2010 from current levels, for all of its four track-renewals contractors.”

Hitting back at RMT’s claims, Network Rail said that it is only deferring non-essential track renewals, which will not compromise safety. A spokesperson for the company told SHP: “Over the next five years we will be investing around £4bn on an intensive renewals programme to improve the railway. As ever, we will never compromise on safety, and to suggest otherwise is scaremongering.

“To get value for money we have looked at all track-renewal work for next year and deferred some work, but only where safety and performance would not be compromised. Track renewals are just one of the ways that we look after the railway. We can also do heavy maintenance to replace parts where necessary, continue with our day-to-day maintenance, and use technology to monitor and maintain the railway in a safe condition.”

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