TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has raised concerns following the report by rail regulator (The Office of Rail and Road, ORR) into the industry's performance and safety record over the course of the Covid pandemic.
Overall, ORR found the rail industry responded extremely well to the COVID-19 pandemic whilst highlighting the importance of health and safety.
"Network Rail, train and tram operators reacted quickly and worked with ORR to implement control measures to enable social distancing and to keep the public and employees safe."
However, the ORR also stresses that "worker safety remains a top priority", following the deaths of track workers in incidents at Surbiton and Roade as well as the derailment at Carmont in which three people died.
Manuel Cortes said:
"It’s good to hear that our industry responded well across the board to the pandemic and that is testimony to the professionalism and bravery of so many of our members who have been on the front line during the pandemic. A huge thank to you to our workplace reps who worked tremendously hard to make our industry safe.
"However, there can be no gloss put on the hard facts beneath the headline. This report fails to emphasise a worsening safety record at Network Rail (NR).
"The ability to inspect and maintain structures and drainage is undermined by NR's approach to outsourcing structures examiners in four out of five Regions. The further breakup of Civil Examination Framework Agreements (CEFA) contracts will only exacerbate this challenge.
"Inspection and monitoring of structures, earthworks and drainage should be brought in-house immediately. Only a safe and reliable network will encourage the increase in passenger numbers and reduce the spike in car use which we have seen during the pandemic.
"As ever, our union will always put the safety of our members and the general public first and foremost."