Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-259)|
WEDNESDAY 19 JUNE 2002
240. Would you confirm that Mr Rix?
(Mr Rix) I can only comment and confirm that there
are indeed problems with the Strategic Rail Authority in allowing
a TOC to manage its industrial relations and agreements within
the last 12 months of a franchise. Towards the latter end of last
year the Arriva Trains Northern franchise was faced with the stupid
consequences of being heavily fined by the Strategic Rail Authority
for not running services when indeed they had recruited more train
drivers than any other TOC in the UK after they inherited the
problems of the previous MTL franchise which they bought out.
As part of that deal, there was to be a deal with my trade union
that would lift the pay and conditions of our members through
a re-structuring, that is a productivity arrangement was put in
place and the SRA effectively blocked that deal for some time,
yet was fining Arriva for service cancellations. This is the silly
situation we have and that is why one of the points we have made
to the Secretary of State recently is that to overcome these arrangements
perhaps there should be some sensible re-introduction of a national
framework of agreements back within the railway industry so they
can look at these key critical issues which can resolve rather
than create industrial relations problems which we have at this
241. Are you saying you must have changes in
pay and conditions rather than the train operators playing a greater
part in agreeing a fairly responsible recruitment strategy?
(Mr Rix) They have put in place a fairly responsible
recruiting strategy. It has been agreed with ourselves and indeed
Arriva at this moment have a surplus of train drivers whom they
are putting into a lot of places. They have kept their word. I
did want to give some opening remarks earlier but if I might I
shall briefly touch on some of those things which affect this
issue. What I find very strange is that no-one at the SRA has
ever justified economically the benefits to the northern region
of creating a trans-Pennine split. I have asked this question
many times. What benefit will the creation of a trans-Pennine
split bring to the northern region when Trans-Pennine are fundamentally
interlinked into the operation of what will be the proposed Northern
rail services? I am fully in agreement with the creation of North
Rail. I think that will create a major reintegration of services
across the North which will interlink between passenger transport
authorities. There are, however, still some key elements which
are missing. One is that if you take the Trans-Pennine element
away from North Rail, what incentive do you give in a public/private
partnership initiative for investors to invest to see a return?
That is the nonsense of what we are seeing. On the one hand our
union does not agree with the policy of going down that application,
but if they are to go down that road on the application of the
Trans-Pennine franchise, what is the economic benefit for it and
what would it do to regenerate the northern regions? It would
not do anything. It will be branded as a form of inter-city company.
There will be high fares as we see with inter-city companies.
You will be seeing structures to price down demand. The benefits
in terms of increasing patronage across the Trans-Pennine belt,
which is one of the highest densities of travel outside the southern
part of England, will be lost and it will be re-opening a corridor
just for business travel. That is not going to benefit all of
the citizens in the North of England. In some respects, the proposals
to push ahead with the Trans-Pennine franchise are based around
a policy which was set a couple of years ago. Unfortunately I
do not think the Government have relaxed enough to allow the new
administration the chance to re-think and re-look at the proposals
because I do not think it will bring any economic benefit whatsoever
to the citizens of the North of England.
242. How do you see your relationships with
the new company? Has there been any opening of dialogue with Network
(Mr Crow) The dialogue we have had is that we have
been told it will be a not-for-profit company. That is all we
have been told.
243. You have not met with management.
(Mr Crow) No, not on the industrial relations side,
just to lay out the business.
244. You have not made any approach to discuss.
(Mr Crow) We have met them under the auspices of the
TUC. The actual management team at the moment have just spelled
out to us what their intentions are, that it will be a not-for-profit
company, how it will be organised, but all the work will be done
by contractors, the same contractors that are there now making
a profit. It is a bit of a contradiction really to say that it
is a not-for-profit company but the people doing the maintenance
will be making a profit.
245. How do you see your relationship with that
(Mr Crow) The same as it is now. We have some 7,000
members organised in that company, signalling grades and crossing
keepers. We see that our existing relationship with them will
continue as it is and the existing agreements will continue unless
246. You have the engineers in membership. Do
you believe that there are enough engineers both in terms of real
engineers and signalling engineers in the northern area?
(Mr Crow) No; far short.
247. Has the situation been improving? Has there
been any change to that over the last six months?
(Mr Crow) No, not in the last six months. In the last
six weeks especially, as a result of a review which was done before
Potters Bar, Jarvis the main contractor in the North of England
is now taking on a substantial number of engineering grades. They
did take that decision before Potters Bar.
248. Do you recruit amongst any contractors?
(Mr Crow) Yes; all the contractors. We have negotiating
rights with the major contractors.
249. How does that relationship perform?
(Mr Crow) It was the follow-on from British Rail when
they went into British Rail Infrastructure Services and then transformed
into seven infrastructure companies, basically being First Engineering,
Jarvis, Balfour Beatty, Serco Rail, Amey, Amec. They are the companies
which operate in the railway network and we have negotiating rights
with all of those groups of people. Our largest group of grades
within the RMT is in the infrastructure contractors.
250. We have been told that the cost of engineering
works is escalating and it has been criticised as being poor value
for money. How would you see a solution?
(Mr Crow) The solution would be for all the work to
be done by Railtrack directly and the people to come back in and
work for Railtrack.
251. So Railtrack would pay less in wages.
(Mr Crow) No. The reason why it costs so much is because
there are half a dozen consultants working around out there instead
of workers. What we need is more people with shovels out there
252. Do you have evidence to that effect? Do
you have evidence to suggest that there is an awful lot of wastage
within the system at present?
(Mr Crow) Yes, there is. Everything is doubled up.
For every infrastructure supervisor, they have a mirror person
they report to, a client/contractor situation. All the work that
is done out there is on Railtrack contracts. If Railtrack did
not want to give those contracts out, they could do the work in-house.
As we speak they are about to let another contract out in the
West of Britain for renewal/maintenance contracts where they have
not looked at the question of whether it would be more efficiently
done in-house. Second, how can they can go ahead with giving out
more contracts when they have not had a finding out of what happened
at Potters Bar and, 20 months since Hatfield, there have been
no inquiry results from either the Health and Safety Executive
or the British Transport Police? We say: wait for those results
to come out first of all before you go ahead and award further
(Mr Rix) There is another example of the relationship
not just with Railtrack but with the Train Operating Companies.
If you create further splits of Train Operating Companies, you
are creating more staff. It would sound very strange to some people
for a person from a trade union to make this point but the essence
of coverage of staff is also another point. You have to have the
same managerial interfaces, so nearly everything in certain respects
on the administration side has trebled, whereas on the operations
side, there has been a reduction. The other point is that the
creation of splits in the franchises will actually mean that you
need far more train drivers and operating staff to operate those
services because they will have to cover those extra services.
Then what you reintroduce is a new training programme because
this will be a new company and under the regulations and rights
of employment no-one has to transfer from Arriva if they have
vacancies already because they will be swallowed up in their own
franchise. Technically, no-one will need to transfer to the Trans-Pennine
company, so technically you could be creating a new company to
run services from day one and have no staff to operate it. This
is the ridiculous situation which they are creating in the railway
industry. It is just creating more unsettled views and it is also
why people are moving around the industry or moving out of the
industry because there is no security or settlement.
253. Is there not a trend towards a lessening
of the number of TOCs which will be in existence in terms of company
(Mr Rix) Yes, but say for example in the North of
England at the moment where you have First North Western, you
have Arriva Trains Northern, the SRA proposed the creation of
one TOC which would be called North Rail, forgetting for the moment
the inter-city TOCs which run parallel up the West and East Coast.
They are creating one TOC, North Rail. Then they are going to
split that TOC to create another Train Operating Company. They
are going to move two sets of staff into one company and then
move two sets of staff back out. This really is an economic nightmare
and I just do not know what benefit it is going to bring to people
in the North.
254. What are your concerns about personal security
(Mr Crow) In what way?
255. What concerns do you have about security
(Mr Crow) Assaults on staff?
(Mr Crow) Assaults on staff have gone on up. What
happens mainly is that it is the frustration of certain passengers
and the first person they see is not the Managing Director normally,
it is the station staff who are collecting tickets. They take
their frustration out on our members of staff who end up being
assaulted and as a result of that we carry their case forward
for criminal injuries compensation. What we believe is that people
want a guard on the train, we believe they feel safer with a guard
on the train, not just to open doors and shut doors but they feel
safer when there is an actual human being around rather than a
Help Point. There are many Help Points on stations now where you
press a button but it is no good if you are being attacked. People
want to see actual people in uniform out and about on the patch.
We should like to say that there is a human factor, but we want
personal security for our staff when they are working about stations
and we believe in personal security for the travelling public.
We are totally opposed to the open station concept because we
believe there should be good, uniformed, highly skilled staff
serving the travelling public on a day to day basis.
257. Are the Strategic Rail Authority and Railtrack
giving enough attention to this?
(Mr Crow) I do not think so. I was elected on 13 February
and I have been Assistant General Secretary for eight years and
I have only met the Strategic Rail Authority twice in that period.
No, I do not see much strategy coming from them.
258. Is there a particular problem with vandalism?
(Mr Crow) Yes, there is a big problem with vandalism.
All the three unions, in conjunction with Railtrack and the British
Transport Police, have been working together on the problem of
materials which are left at the side of tracks. Normally the vandals
pick them up and throw them onto the tracks and one thing and
another. Especially during the holidays, Easter, half-term and
summer holidays children are getting through fences which have
broken down and playing about the tracks which causes major concerns.
259. What more would you like to be done to
deal with that?
(Mr Crow) I should like a review of the British Transport
Police. To be honest with you, I think the British Transport Police
have failed miserably. I do not think they can cope with the problems
in the railway industry and I think we should look at a situation
where the Metropolitan Police or the county police forces take
over their role. They seem to be very weak and failing to provide
a proper security service out there for either the passenger who
gets injured or our members.