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Network Rail cuts 15% of management posts

Network Rail finance director Patrick Butcher has revealed more about the ongoing changes at the company.

Speaking at the Derby & Derbyshire Rail Forum annual conference today, he said there were "misconceptions" that the company – now reclassified as part of the public sector – had a "hosepipe of cash", but in fact it has just cut the number of management-grade jobs by 15%.

He explained: “We’re supposed to have lots more money. It doesn’t feel like that, I can tell you; we’ve just done a 15% staff reduction across all the management grades at Network Rail. 1,100 people have left the company over the last couple of months, and some will go over the next couple of months. It doesn’t feel like [there’s] a great big hosepipe of cash pouring into the company.”

Discussing the efficiency agenda, Butcher said: “We took 15% out during CP4, a bit less than we meant to, largely because of problems we had with track renewals, and those problems will continue into CP5. The impact of that should come through in reduced subsidy.

“This has got to be a grown-up debate. There is no hiding from the choice that if you put money into the railway and you expect the railway to fund the interest costs of the investment that has gone in, costs are still going to go up or stay flat.”

He spoke of a "Golden Age of rail investment", but hinted that there would be "funding crunches" to come in the next decade.

Butcher also gave more details about the upcoming changes to site supervision, in which site safety and project supervision will be rolled into one post. RTM has covered these changes before, but Butcher confirmed the changes are coming in towards the end of this year. As Network Rail's Steve Hooker and Simon Kirby have noted in RTM, the current structure can mean situations where there is “someone from potentially the second or third tier running safety…Are they really going to feel accountable to stop the job when the person they’re trying to stop will decide whether they’ve got a job again next week?”

Butcher focused on the absolute commitment to safety, and the fact that the railways remain far behind oil and gas  in other ways a comparable industry  when it comes to workforce safety. He said Network Rail's vision is that no-one ever feels forced to make a choice between doing a job safely and doing it on time, and the 'obligation' (not right) to intervene if someone thinks something potentially unsafe is happening. 

He said Network Rail managed to close more level crossings than it expected during CP4, adding: "The only safe level crossing is a closed level crossing."

He revealed that he keeps a photo in his office of 14-year-old Olivia Bazlinton, who died in 2005 at Elsenham level crossing in Essex, as a constant reminder of the human consequences of safety failures.

Talking about some of the individual projects that for CP5, he said that Great Western electrification “is the biggest and most complex thing we’ve done…it makes the West Coast Main Line look like a relatively straightforward line upgrade”.

Timetables will also need completely re-doing, he added, particularly Southern. The current timetables “don’t work” he said, and are impossible to fulfil.

When the management-grade job cuts were originally announced in September 2013, the TSSA union said it was in "shock" at the scale of the cuts, "in particular the effect on safety and on the workload of those who maybe left behind". It opposed compulsory redundancies.

Full coverage from the conference here, including speeches from transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, DfT Rail Executive director general Clare Moriarty, and RDG chair Martin Griffiths. 

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(Image: Patrick Butcher speaking at the DDRF Annual Conference today. Copyright Paul Bigland)


Maintain The Network   12/04/2014 at 11:19

Network Rail's maintenance of the network has been poor during the last Control Period because of the cuts they made at the start of the last Control Period. This will only make things worse. The lack of people in the right posts is pushing costs onto TOCs who have to pick up the pieces for Network Rail's inability to manage the network properly.

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