NR brands renewals cuts as “ridiculous scaremongering”
NETWORK Rail says reports of plans to cut jobs and renewals work are “ridiculous scaremongering”, and that it has no plans to cut any safety-critical jobs or work.
The Independent claimed on April 1 that a letter passed to it written by Ben Brooks (someone with that name is NR’s’ Project Director for High Output Track Renewal) says: “Because of significant overspends in some areas, including some enhancement schemes and the fact that the routes are more expensive to run than predicted, there is simply not enough money left in Control Period 5 to continue as we have been. So the whole of NR has to cut costs.”
The letter claims that high output renewals on the London North Western and Wessex routes have been cancelled, as well as work on routes from London Waterloo and all work planned for 2019 in Wales.
It adds that while NR has no plans for compulsory or voluntary redundancies, sub-contractors and NR’s supply chain “will be hit hardest, as this is the area of the business where we have the potential to reduce our workforce quickly and relatively easily”.
Network Rail told RAIL that the letter seen by The Independent was “written prematurely”.
Spokesman Dan Donovan added: “We are making savings in nonessential areas to ensure we’re delivering value to the taxpayer. Any decisions about high output track renewals will go through several phases and reviews, before a final solution is agreed upon - we are still in the early phases of that process. This means the high output track renewals programme for the rest of CP5 and CP6 is still to be confirmed.”
In an earlier statement, NR said: “Network Rail has no plans to cut any safety-critical jobs or any safety-critical work. Any such suggestion is ridiculous scaremongering. Network Rail is investing billions of pounds to improve our railway and will continue this investment through to 2019.
“But the rail network has faced a number of cost pressures and changing priorities, and like all businesses we have to live within our means. This sometimes means making hard choices.
“We are making savings in non-essential areas to ensure we’re delivering value to the taxpayer, while at the same time continuing to deliver a safe, reliable and expanding railway. The safe running of the rail network will never be compromised and the adjustment in the activity of our high output track renewals work represents just 0.3% of our spend in the running of the railway network.
“Britain has the safest railway in Europe, thanks to the efforts of many thousands of hardworking men and women, and they are ill-served by such baseless scaremongering by trade unions.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash wrote to NR saying: “The deferral or cancellation of critical renewals work will have an adverse impact on safety, the quality of services, employment levels, staff morale and the rail skills base.”
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “These cuts must be resisted. We are one of the richest countries on the planet. There is simply no need to play austerity politics with rail safety - it will endanger passengers’ lives. If they go through, it is hard to conceive how another rail disaster cannot happen.”
Campaign for Better Transport Chief Executive Stephen Joseph expressed concern that the cuts - if they happen - will mean more delays for passengers, but added: “However, this isn’t all about austerity - some of it is about waste and incompetence in Network Rail which, as they admit, has mismanaged several upgrade projects. NR needs to get a grip and the regulator needs to help it do it.” @AndyRoden1 ■ See Philip Haigh, pages 76-77.