NR brands re­newals cuts as “ridicu­lous scare­mon­ger­ing”

Rail (UK) - - Network News - An­drew Ro­den Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­

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.

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