NEWS.CATEGORY: Health and safety

TSSA raises safety concerns with ORR over Network Rail job cuts

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TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has written to the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) raising safety and workflow concerns about the effects of wide scale job cuts being proposed by Network Rail (NR).

The letter was prompted by plans by NR to increase planned budget cuts of £3.5bn to £4bn in its funding period 2019 to 2024 (known as Control Period 6).

TSSA has expressed “grave concerns” about safety on the railways resulting from of the loss of more than 900 highly skilled and specialist NR employees in Management Grades, along with questioning NR’s ability to carry out planned work over the Control Period. This is on top of over 1,000 employees in the same grades – for which TSSA has sole recognition rights – who are being allowed to leave under NR’s own Special Voluntary Severance Scheme.

In his letter to the regulator for Britain’s railways, Cortes asks ORR Chief Executive John Larkinson if the scale of the planned changes infringe the ‘Managing Change Policy’, which NR is required to comply with under its network licence. 

If it does, NR should be consulting with a range of stakeholders like the Passenger and Freight Operators and Passenger Transport Executives as the funding cuts could affect what work NR can do, affecting the likes of Train operating Companies (TOCs).  

Cortes goes on to ask the ORR in its rail safety regulator role whether NR should be reviewing its Safety Management System (SMS) because of the levels of redundancies which could affect key roles and require changed responsibilities. TSSA's view is that the scale of change should require a formal review of how NR manages its safety responsibilities, a requirement under railway law.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary, said: “It is the ORR’s responsibility to ensure that our railways are safe both for passengers and as a place of work.

“We have grave concerns about the impact that thousands of Network Rail job cuts in a short space of time will have on the safe running of our railways and are asking the ORR to execute their duty in holding Network Rail to account.

“It is vital that such huge changes on our railways do not put passengers or staff at risk – the safety of our railways must come first.”

The ORR describes its first function as being to “regulate the rail industry's health and safety performance” and to “hold Network Rail and High Speed 1 to account”.

The full letter is as follows:

‘RE: ORR CP6 Managing Change Policy, Safety Authorisation and the demand for additional efficiencies in Network Rail

Dear Mr Larkinson,

I am writing to you in connection with formal advice that TSSA has received from Network Rail (NR) that the demand for £3.5bn of efficiencies in Control Period 6 has now been increased by £0.5bn to £4bn.

The purpose of this letter is to ask for your confirmation that the ORR’s CP6 Managing for Change Policy will be activated by the scale of change that NR is planning due to the amendment of its regulatory settlement determination under the SoFA and the impact on railway investment envisaged in that outcome. NR has told TSSA that it does not need to tell the ORR about their plans highlighted below.

TSSA notes that Paragraph 1.2 of the Policy broadly describes those changes that are within scope as “those that may reasonably be expected to impact:

  • Route Business and/or SO accountability (including changes to route boundaries, route and/or SO functions and the outputs to be delivered); and/or
  • how much funding a Route Business and/or the SO has available to it to deliver what it is accountable for in the control period (including changes to annual budgets).”

We also note Paragraph 1.5 which stipulates that “where these changes have a knock-on impact on accountability and/or funding, this would constitute a Relevant Change, meaning that the applicable parts of this policy must be followed.”

In our research, we have also noted the bullet points under Paragraph 1.9, “Levels of Change” which includes the three factors to be considered when determining an “appropriate way of managing a potential change”, including: ‘its materiality in terms of its monetary impact and potential impact on outcomes delivered to customers, end-users and funders.”

As a consequence, we believe that the ORR’s Policy does apply, that the appropriate change level should be activated and that NR should be consulting with stakeholders like the Passenger and Freight Operators, Passenger Transport Executives, etc, in accordance with Paragraph 1.19 of the Policy.

Additional to the consideration of the CP6 Managing Change Policy, TSSA further believes that the scale of change requires a review of NR’s ROGS Safety Authorisation and Safety Certificate because of the high level of job losses that are being pushed through and which are likely to affect responsibilities and accountabilities in NR’s Safety Management System.

TSSA would again ask you to confirm your agreement to our perspective.

The basis for this letter is that on the back of the news about the increase in required efficiencies, Network Rail has in the past week begun consulting at a national level with TSSA as the sole recognised union for Bands 1-4 Management Grade staff.

The core of its proposal is that it intends to cut 905 management staff from across most of its Routes and Functions, a figure that is additional to the 1,019 Bands 1-4 employees already leaving under the Special Voluntary Severance Scheme introduced through the Rail Industry Recovery Group established by the Department for Transport.

NR has advised TSSA that the SVSS cuts saved the company £83m but it now needs at least a further £170m savings from the Bands 1-4 workforce to meet the new efficiency target.

Our understanding of the CP6 Managing Change Policy is that it is based on Route (and System Operator) regulation by ORR because each has a separate settlement. This would suggest that the Policy can apply to specific Routes (or the SO) if they meet the criteria.

NR has advised TSSA that it intends to make the following redundancies by Route/SO and that following National Principles Consultation, detailed consultation would take place at those business levels:

Region/FunctionBands 1 to 4 (proposed as at risk)
Wales and Western0
System Operator256
Route Services205
North West & Central180
Technical Authority50

In addition to these job cuts, TSSA is aware that NR intends to cut a further £100m from its Maintenance budget. From the information that we have seen, this will mean significantly more jobs being deleted than from the management grades.

I look forward to your response and am happy to meet to discuss any of the above.

Yours sincerely,

Manuel Cortes

General Secretary’

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