June 2006 - Network Rail: a lack of involvement

01 June 2013

When Network Rail first spoke to me about its advertising campaign to make level crossings safer, I was told all ‘stakeholders’, including ASLEF, would be fully consulted on the direction of the message. Unsurprisingly this did not happen – and equally unsurprising, Network Rail got it wrong.

The Network Rail campaign is an exercise in berating the public. It blames them for the accidents to themselves - as if the public were totally irresponsible while Network Rail was some innocent bystander.

It's not Network Rail's job to act like the school prefect. It is their job to provide safe systems.

If a collision takes place on a crossing which only has two thin pieces of wood half covering the road, who is to blame? Is it the people who put such an inadequate barrier in place, or is it the motorist who, pressed for time, weaves past the barrier?

The answer is both: but the Network Rail campaign only seems to blame the public.

If you are going to tick people off for being irresponsible, you have to be seen to be doing something in return. Doesn't that sound like the 'partnership' arrangement everyone talks about - and no one really seems to believe?

If Network Rail believed in this approach, it would have said, 'We want to work with the public to solve this problem. For our part, we will install rail to cab video systems and improve barriers, visibility and danger warnings. For your part, we'd ask you to take more care when you approach a level crossing and educate your children to keep away from dangerous train lines.'

It's said a bad workman blames his tools. Network Rail has taken this a step further. It blames the public because the company has bad tools! The company doesn't seem to realize that this approach is equally negative in its dealing with the public and its workforce. It is unpracticed in any type of 'partnership' approach.

This union never turns its back on safety issues or campaigns, and has made no negative remarks in the media about this one. But we do consider it ill-targeted and ill-advised, with the tone of a hectoring superior rather than another interested party. These are points we could have made - had we been properly consulted on the exercise.

Meanwhile we had the announcement that the Chief Executive of Network Rail is to receive a quarter of a million pound bonus to add to his half million pound salary. It amazes me how much money the rail industry spends on the wrong things. John Armitt's bonus would be better invested in improving rail crossings - as would the money spent on his advertising campaign which blames the public for Network Rail's inadequacies.

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