TSSA today warned of “wholly unnecessary safety risks” on the railways as Network Rail announced a cull of almost 500 jobs in cost cutting measures.
Network Rail is cutting back on plans to renew life expired rails in order to balance the books. Most of the anticipated track renewals will now be deferred for at least 5 years, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic rail failure due to unaddressed metal fatigue.
The cuts will affect the High Output Track Renewals Team, which replaces old rails and sleepers, using highly-specialist on-track machinery.
Network Rail is also drastically cutting their fleet of High Output Ballast Cleaners which replace and replenish life expired ballast.
TSSA General Secretary, Maryam Eslamdoust, said: “This is a short-term decision, with potentially deadly consequences, that exposes the absurdity of the UK’s railways funding model.
“Under these changes, rail and ballast that would otherwise be considered life-expired will be left in service for years to come, creating wholly unnecessary safety risks.
“The potential consequences of a sudden catastrophic rail failure under a train travelling at high speed are truly terrifying.
“The financial rationales don’t even add up. With older and continually deteriorating rails Network Rail will have to spend more money on more frequent examinations to make them safe. An increasing number of identified track defects are going to require costly additional short-term labour intensive maintenance repairs, whilst the millions invested in the High Output Track Renewals machinery rusts away in remote sidings.
“This makes no sense; not for the impacted employees who will lose their livelihoods, not for Network Rail as the custodian of the UK rail infrastructure, and certainly not for the UK taxpayer and travelling public.
“TSSA will robustly challenge this proposal, fighting for our members who now find themselves at risk of redundancy, and for the safety of our railways.”
Notes for editors
The work of this team, known as the High Output Track Renewals Team, is carried out using highly-specialist on-track machinery which can lift the old rails and sleepers and replace them with new whilst travelling through an overnight engineering possession. It is a unique provision in the UK that cannot be delivered by the supply chain. This capability will now be lost to the UK
481 jobs are expected to be cut.
The impacted employees, who now face redundancy, are a highly skilled and specialised workforce, who cost millions to train and develop. TSSA has warned that they will quickly be lost to the industry and will take many years to replace.