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Devolution - Here comes trouble!

1 March 2011

Network Rail has announced plans to change the way routes are managed. What is this all about? Well Network Rail has not consulted with us, itself an ominous sign, so we are left to guess. However, despite the spin and gloss, perhaps clues can be found within their public statement.

The clues are there

The first clue is that, according to Network Rail, these changes are ‘to help the rail industry to work together more effectively to save money’. So this is not intended to signify greater investment in the railways but it is designed to help the rail industry ‘work together’. Is this code for vertical integration (the train operating companies taking control of the track)? We don’t know because we have not been consulted.

Clue number two is that each route will ‘run as a business unit, and each route managing director will, in effect be running their own infrastructure company’. Well that certainly suggests that this will be a step towards breaking up the railways. Is this softening up Network Rail for a return to the nightmare of privatisation? We don’t know, but we could have a good guess.

Clue number three is the quote from David Higgins, NR Chief Executive: ‘Network Rail has saved money and achieved a great deal through central control but there is a widespread feeling that we are not as close to our customers as we should be.’ If central control has led to savings, it begs the question how can decentralisation lead to greater savings? At a guess, ‘being closer to the customer’, means closer to the train operators who are already making a handsome profit out of privatisation.

Milton Keynes and other reorganisations

What does it mean for the Milton Keynes move? It seems as if even Network Rail do not know the answer to that one: ‘Some changes may apply to a few roles which may now be done in the routes; the majority of roles will be moving to Milton Keynes as planned. Both the national centre and the routes project teams will now work together to clarify any changes caused by the new route reporting lines.’ We have called for Network Rail to put on hold all their current re-organisations until they know what these changes will mean for our members. No one should be losing their livelihood at a time when so much is in doubt.

The TSSA General Secretary has written to Network Rail seeking an urgent meeting. In the meantime, we need to get ourselves organised if we are to protect our industry.

No return to privatisation

Privatisation was a disaster for the railways. Your union wants to see the whole of the railway industry brought back under public ownership and control. Until we are consulted by Network Rail, we can only judge their latest proposals on what little we know. These proposals look like the first steps towards returning Network Rail to the private sector. Such a step will be bad for safety, bad for passengers, bad for railway workers, bad for the public purse and bad for the railway.


Finally we cannot ignore the hypocrisy of the following statement: ‘In all that we do we will continue to put safety first’ This is the company that has been found by the Rail Standards Safety Board to have operated a climate of fear which lead to the falsification of safety reports. Just last month the Office of the Rail Regulator re-opened its enquiry into the Elsenham tragedy where two young girls were killed, after receiving evidence that previously undisclosed safety recommendations made prior to the tragedy were ignored by Network Rail. Your union will be giving evidence to the re-opened enquiry.

Stand up for a safe railway

There has never been a more important time to be active in your union. These latest proposals are a threat to the safety of the job. We may well be facing a return to the madness of privatisation. If you are not a member, then please consider joining. If you are already a member, then please consider whether you would like to play an active role in your trade union? We always need members to step up as industrial and health and safety reps. If you are interested, we will provide the necessary training and you will be afforded time off from your job to perform your trade union duties.

Want to know more? Contact our Members Helpdesk (0800 328 2673) who will get one of our organisers to contact you.

Download TSSA Circular 77 - Here comes trouble

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