Union: ‘Less maintenance could close rail network’

18 March 2009

ASLEF’s General Secretary has written to the heads of all UK train companies asking for their views on Network Rail’s decision to cut back on track renewals and maintenance. The union’s executive insists that if any accident occurs as a direct result of reduced maintenance routines ‘train travel in Britain will come to a standstill’.


Keith has told train companies of his huge concern at Network Rail’s admission that it plans ‘huge reduction in track renewals expenditure’ that it concedes ‘will have a major impact on the supply chain’ with ‘20% - 30% less heavy materials’ resulting in ‘supply chain redundancies’. Information released by a Network Rail whistleblower reveals that essential engineering work in almost 200 locations covering the Southern, Western and London to Crewe regions has been deferred - despite it having been agreed and placed with contractors last year.


‘This irresponsible decision will have a direct and negative impact on the provision of passenger rail and freight services,’ Keith says. ‘It will also have a residual effect on a whole range of other industries such as quarrying and steel.’


ASLEF says that Network Rail’s actions completely undermine government commitments to bring forward rail infrastructure projects to boost employment. ‘Despite being responsible to the government and dependent on state subsidies, Network Rail’s directors are creating a climate which will result in a hemorrhaging of jobs from the rail industry,’ Keith declares.


The union is ‘appalled’ that Network Rail is prepared to cut the frequency of track inspections and routine signals maintenance on cost grounds. ‘The cumulative effect of these measures – less maintenance and renewals – will be to significantly raise safety risks to passengers and industry employees.’


He warned of ‘another Hatfield, Potters Bar or Grayrigg’ and insisted that all ASLEF members would react instantly if this happened again. ‘How many times do we need to learn the same lesson?’ he demanded.


ASLEF has been lobbying transport ministers Geoff Hoon and Andrew Adonis, calling on them to ensure this essential rail renewal work is not deferred and to develop an industry-wide strategy to ensure that the railways can be managed to mitigate rather than exacerbate the effect of the downturn.

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