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New track renewals qualification launched

The rail industry has launched a new qualification in track renewals to improve quality and safety.

The Level 2 Certificate in Railway Engineering Track Renewals (QCF), which is supported by Network Rail and TfL but will not be mandated by them, was developed by NSARE (the National Skills Academy for Rail Engineering) and awarding organisation EAL.

It was launched at an event in London yesterday, attended by RTM and scores of senior industry figures.

Neil Hyde, head of permanent way at London Underground Capital Programmes (pictured above), endorsed the new qualification as he said it would help the company ensure track worker safety, system safety, and effective delivery. “We need an experienced, trained and competent workforce,” he said. “It sounds like [the track renewal qualification] is definitely going to be something that my workforce can migrate into.”

He said it would help ensure “a baseline level of skills”, and suggested that for some track workers who’ve been on the job for 20 or 30 years, this could be their first formal qualification.

NSARE’s head of business services Elaine Clark explained that the qualification will help on three different levels; for the individual worker, it is a recognition of their learning and skills; for the employer, it means they can ensure their staff have achieved a certain standard; and for the industry, there’s a need for a professional workforce trained to a national standard.

She noted that the maintenance side of railway engineering is already fairly well covered by formal qualifications, as is traction and rolling stock, but more needed to be done on track renewals, OLE installation and signalling.

Network Rail’s Steve Hooker (pictured) spoke at the conference with a focus on worker safety, after showing a powerful video of several accidents and near-misses, some of which produced gasps from the audience. It also referenced the death of 26-year-old rail worker Scott Dobson from Doncaster in December last year.

new track - middle image

He said that safety, although much better now than in the early 2000s, has not really improved over the last six to seven years in terms of number of incidents, which is “not acceptable”. Network Rail is now in the middle of a 10-point plan to overhaul safety arrangements, including some “significant changes” that will take place soon on site safety, replacing the current fragmented system of having COSSs, PICOPs, PCs, and engineering supervisors. “Who’s responsible?” he asked. He noted that there are 22,000 COSSs on Sentinel, when the industry only needs 3,500, suggesting many of them are not regularly performing the role.

He said there was evidence of “informality” in the way some track jobs were planned and delivered, especially routine jobs, which increases risk.

A new permit to work system will help ensure safety, with new safety, performance and productivity standards written into contracts with suppliers. He wants to see the end of the situation in which a contingent worker could be in charge of site safety and to ensure this always sits with an employee of Network Rail or one of its principal contractors.

He also wants Network Rail to move away from zero-value contracts, which will hopefully shift contractors away from using zero-hours contracts for their workers.

“There will be significant change,” Hooker said.

NSARE chief executive Gil Howarth said the industry needed to ensure it acts on qualifications and minimum standards. He suggested that if employers don’t improve the current situation voluntarily, the ORR could one day step in and make such qualifications mandatory.

He added: “We are pleased to be working with EAL on this exciting project, to help tackle current and future skills needs within the railway engineering industry.”

More information on the new qualification is available on the EAL website here.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]

new track - bottom image


Nonsuchmike   27/09/2013 at 16:26

This morning Conference was a treat. Those who missed it missed a lot of very exciting and important strategies which as they unfold will lay the foundations for a more professional workforce, as well as more integrated and cost effective series of projects going forward.

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