Supplementary memorandum by RMT (RI 02B)
RAIL INVESTMENT: RENEWAL, MAINTENANCE AND
DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATIONAL RAIL NETWORK
Did the regulator miss the opportunity in his
periodic review to change the structure of Railtrack?
No we do not believe that the Regulator missed
the opportunity to change the structure of Railtrack.
It is not the structure of Railtrack that is
the problem, rather the structure of the industry. It is our understanding
that the Regulator can only make an assessment of Railtrack on
the basis of its current network licence and its statutory duties
to other parts of the industry.
RMT certainly do not believe creating yet more
interfaces and causing further fragmentation is desirable. Government
must take responsibility for the plight of the rail industry and
we should not forget that they are due to make available to Railtrack
significant sums for investment.
Should Railtrack be broken up, with each of its
existing zones undertaking maintenance and renewals and with separate
bodies taking responsibility for signalling, timetabling and property?
The Rail Freight Group has called for Railtrack
to be split into seven separate companies based on the existing
zones. Competition between infrastructure providers on the basis
of performance and efficiency will they argue provide a structure
whereby the Rail Regulator is able to remove a company's network
licence. At the moment it would be very difficult to effectively
remove the company's licence without the railway grinding to a
RMT are strongly opposed to this and we believe
that more effective track maintenance and renewal can be delivered
in other ways. In recent years the railway has suffered from too
much fragmentation and this proposal will create yet more interfaces.
The dangers of this have been graphically illustrated.
RMT can advise the Committee that there are
currently no less than 2,000 contractors and sub-contractors operating
within the industry. On occasions there has been four sub-contractors
utilised by the main contractor employed by Railtrack for just
one possession. The increasing Casualisation of track and maintenance
work is underlined by the fact that there are now a total of 84,000
holders of PTS certificates.
RMT believe that a strategic stake should be
taken in the company. However with or without a Government stake
in the company, RMT believe that Railtrack should directly employ
a core of maintenance and renewal workers who have day-to-day
responsibility for keeping the network safe. Additional workers
can be hired for the peak periods. This proposal will give greater
control over the maintenance of the network and reduce the number
of companies and the associated blame culture.
In addition to bringing the work of the contractors
in-house more effective monitoring of sub-contractors is needed.
RMT recommends that the number of approved sub-contractors should
be reduced to a level consistent with actual needs, and also the
ability of Railtrack to effectively manage them. In this context
the committee may wish to note the General Principles integral
to the 1999 Health and Safety at Work Regulations. These stipulate
that where there is risk you should seek to eliminate rather than
simply manage that risk.
I hope these answers are helpful to the Committee.
30 November 2000