Cutbacks 'threat to rail safety'
12:35am Friday 25th July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Rail safety is being compromised due to Government cutbacks, according to a TUC report.
Reduction in funding to Network Rail (NR) has led to staff shortages, less frequent inspections and the increasing use of workers employed on zero-hours contracts, the report said.
Rail employees said that when safety concerns were raised, they were rarely acted upon, and "as a result workers were much less likely to raise potential safety issues".
Based on interviews with rail workers, t he report was carried out on behalf of the four unions behind the TUC's Action for Rail campaign - Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite - by the Working Lives Institute at London Metropolitan University.
The report said workers were worried that a major accident could happen "as a result of the culture that has developed in rail maintenance where safety is threatened because of a lack of resources".
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "When track workers - who see with their own eyes when safety corners are being cut and where crucial maintenance jobs are delayed - warn that a major accident could be just around the corner, it's surely time for ministers to wake up and act."
The RMT said: "Corners are being cut and essential maintenance work delayed as the obsession with meeting cuts and targets overrides the delivery of safe and efficient services."
Unite said: "Safety for passengers and those that maintain the railways should not be sacrificed on the all-too-familiar altar of cost-cutting and a lack of resources."
And TSSA said: " We need firm action to ensure that track workers who leave home in the morning are sure of getting home safely every night."
Aslef said: "The Government must fund NR to the level that enables it to guarantee not just to maintain, but to improve the rail service's safety record."
A total of 11 people gave views to the report compilers.
Of these, five were NR staff, four were employed by contractors, one was an RMT trade union official and one was a TSSA trade union official.
A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said it would " keep working together to find ways of improving safety even further".
An Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) spokesman said: "The rail regulator will never allow savings to come at the expense of safety."
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Safety must be a top priority, and we look to NR and the ORR to ensure that the rail network is run in a safe and reliable way."
NR said: "De spite this report being based on the views of just five of our 35,000-strong workforce, parts of it echo with our own analysis and gives us an interesting glimpse into areas we need to overcome and address."