TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has hailed as "a victory for common sense" a decision by Network Rail (NR) to bring visual examinations of railway structures across its Eastern Region back in house.
The union had repeatedly raised concerns about proposed new contracts breaking up and fragmenting Civil Examination Framework Agreements (CEFA), which are currently carried out by Amey. These deal with the maintenance of tunnels, bridges and other structures, crucial to the safe running of our railways.
Around the country, despite the existing contract ceasing at the end of March, plans are yet to be agreed with new suppliers to carry out structures examinations and building surveys.
With respect to the Eastern Region – covering the Anglia, East Coast, East Midlands and North Eastern routes – NR has written to TSSA stating that "we have determined that the interests of the users of the railway and of our business will be served best if Network Rail carries out the visual examination services."
TSSA is now demanding that the awarding of CEFA contracts across the board is scrapped and structural examinations are brought under direct NR control.
Manuel Cortes said:
"This is a victory for common sense, but our union has been telling Network Rail (NR) for months that it must think again. The awarding of new contracts must be scrapped right around the country if we are to ensure the safe running of our railways.
"Let’s be clear – if NR thinks it’s in the best interests of the railway that they take direct control of examinations in the Eastern Region, then that holds true elsewhere. The general public may not be fully aware, but there is constant monitoring of railway structures to ensure our trains can run safely.
"This work is absolutely vital and simply can’t be hived off to multiple employers. NR is still able to change tack and I urge them to do so today.
"Time is already far too short for the fragmentation of these contracts to go ahead. Not only will we never compromise on safety but we require meaningful consultation with transferring employees which satisfies statutory requirements. This will be impossible to achieve before April.
"Network Rail must think again, for passengers and for the sake of our members who have been put under undue stress thanks to these ill-thought-out plans which have left many unaware of who they might be working for in just a few days' time.
"NR have got it right with their decision on the Eastern Region – now they must scrap the awarding of new contacts and bring all staff affected into direct employment."