Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum by RMT (RI 02B)


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 halt.

  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.

J Knapp,

General Secretary

30 November 2000

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