Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 225 - 234)




  225. Gentlemen, firstly, may I apologise most sincerely for keeping you waiting. As you can understand, with our system, we get called away to vote, and today, of all days, we are having to actually to pay attention to them; it is very wearing. Can I ask you, first of all, to identify yourselves, for the record?
  (Mr Rosser) Richard Rosser. General Secretary, Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

  (Mr Crow) Bob Crow. National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers.
  (Mr Rix) Michael Rix. General Secretary, ASLEF.

  226. Can I ask, if any of you agree with the general line taken by your colleagues, you will not choose to repeat it; if you have different points to make from one another, if you would then indicate. Do you have any opening remarks, or may we go quickly to questions?
  (Mr Rix) I have no opening remarks.
  (Mr Crow) No.
  (Mr Rosser) No.

  227. Thank you very much. Then can I ask you, what is the main way in which the PPP management relationships are going to blur the lines of control and responsibility for safety?
  (Mr Crow) Our first concern is the fragmentation of the industry. We see little difference with the fragmentation of the former British Rail than we do with London Underground, with loads upon loads of interfaces, where even though you might have one infrastructure company on the mainline railway you have got three Infracos on London Underground. That then fragments, the sub-contractors, agency staff and you have then a whole host of different companies working out there, which we believe does not lay clearly down for safety.

  228. Does anybody else want to comment on that?
  (Mr Rix) Yes, I would just like to make a few points. It has been quite clear, since the shadow operation has been put in place, that the fragmentation of the relationships has increased; there is very little co-ordination on certain issues and very little—

  229. Like what?
  (Mr Rix) Very much on safety communication and the ownership, there is not one person that is responsible for ownership.

  230. That is different from the way it was before?
  (Mr Rix) That is right. There was somebody there in authority in a central way that could make those decisions, and we are seeing more of a move towards the independence of the three Infracos, as opposed to London Underground. It has been quoted to us that we will see very little difference, but, however, that is not really the case. And the fragmentation of relationships is rather more on the increase than the decrease.
  (Mr Rosser) We have had examples, for example, of one of the Infraco companies allocates a single job number for a job that might comprise a series of faults. And we have had an example of a so-called single job comprising a number of faults, five separate faults, but allocated as one job number, and when the job was signed off only three of the faults had, in fact, been completed.

  231. Who would normally be responsible for that?
  (Mr Rosser) Who would normally be responsible for what?

  232. For the difference between the numbers of faults that were notified and the final signing off on the basis of safety?
  (Mr Rosser) Well that would be the Infraco people advising the fault report centre; and when the station supervisor checked the work and discovered the discrepancy, contacted the fault report centre, to be informed that the job had been completed and that no work was outstanding. Now that is the policy of one Infraco; the other Infracos, in fact, it is one job, one number. Now all I am saying is that that is one example of where, because you have different Infracos, they adopt different practices. One of our safety reps has told us that, at meetings I understand are held with HMRI and safety reps in LUL, there already appears to have been examples of some confusion over the asset boundaries between the Infracos. There have also been reservations raised as to whether the Infracos actually give full reasons of the explanations for faults to London Underground; obviously, one can think of circumstances where, if it is their own fault, it might not be in their interests to do so. So we are already beginning to get from our safety representatives and our members examples of where this fragmentation and where basing relationships on doing work for another party, even though we have not yet reached the stage of actually moving it over into the private sector, is already creating differences in working practices and different approaches.

  233. What about the risks in creating a new structure; do you think they will compromise efficiency, and do you think any of them have been missed out?
  (Mr Rosser) Some of the risks, or potential risks, involved, I can only refer to as examples, I am afraid, but it is to what has happened in the main railway system. And, for example, Professor Uff's report into the Southall train accident, there was an issue there of signal alignment; and one of the things that emerged in his report is that Amey Rail, who were the maintenance company, have said it was not their job, whereas Railtrack were of the view that it did form part of their maintenance contract. We have also seen a more recent example, earlier this year, it was a derailment, it was a derailment, I think, on lines leading to a power station, and this was an internal Railtrack report, and after the investigation had been carried out it said that, adequate inspection or maintenance regime, the parties had failed to agree to one, and it then came out with this quote that all the First Engineering witnesses, First Engineering being the maintenance company, appeared to believe they were not responsible for the inspection and maintenance of the derailment site.

  234. I am sorry about this, I am afraid the Committee has to be suspended for 15 minutes. I am told there may be another two votes after that and, in theory, I am going to have to suspend for two more periods of 15 minutes each time. Gentlemen, I am very concerned about this. I think, because of what is going on on the floor of the House, we may have to keep suspending this Committee. Can I ask your indulgence; would you prefer to calmly sit here for three-quarters of an hour, which is going to mean we are going to be so disastrously behind, I may not keep my quorum, I will be quite honest with you. Or would you consider—I apologise, I am so sorry about this—would you consider coming back again?
  (Mr Rix) I think that might be the preferable option.

  Chairman: Would you forgive me; I am so sorry. I have no control over the Parliament. I have about as much control over Parliament as I have over my own life. So can I say thank you to you, and I apologise, and I am afraid we will have to reinstate this. I would rather do that and give you time. Order, order. The Committee is suspended, until such time as we get ourselves together again.

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