Thursday 28th July marked the formal start of Network Rail’s legal consultation process with its trade unions addressing the maintenance reforms required to modernise and improve productivity and efficiency across the UK’s rail network.
These reforms are centred around the improvement of train service performances for the passenger experience, improving safety standards across the network for employees and customers alike. These ambitions must be met whilst also ensuring that they can be done in the most cost-effective ways to secure the sectors financial stability moving forwards post pandemic.
The proposed reforms to our maintenance organisation will deliver:
- A safer and more reliable and punctual service for passengers and employees – quicker fault fixes by multi-disciplined response teams and greater use of ‘smart meter’ technology flagging issues to controls rooms before key equipment failure
- Individual rostering – enabling the ability to send the right number or people to fix a fault rather than fixed sized teams.
- Multifunctional teams – enabling mixed skills within a team so that, for example, three mixed-specialists in one van could be sent to fix a fault rather than two specialist teams in two vans.
- Multi-skilling – investing in the knowledge and skills of our people so they are better equipped to fix the most common faults themselves.
- Accelerated and improved technology deployment – we have a raft of labour and life-saving technology that have been stuck in ‘trade union consultation’ for over two years, holding up the deployment of vital safety upgrades that are ready to be rolled out.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said:
“The way people live, and work has changed since the pandemic. On the railway, that means significantly fewer commuters and significantly less income. This year we’ll see a shortfall of around £2bn compared with 2019.
“It would be wrong to fund this deficit through increases in fares or taxes when we know that some of our working practices are fundamentally broken. That’s why we must make progress with modernising the way we carry out maintenance work and making the savings that are necessary for the future of our railway.
“…It is vital that we progress our modernisation plans to help put our railway on a sustainable financial footing for the future.”
These proposed reforms that are being championed are aiming to make the rail sector more efficient and will modernise practices that will help rail catch up to wider norms in comparable industries, as shown in the recent Nichols report. These reforms would likely require a smaller workforce, leading some to be concerned with compulsory redundancies, however any proposed changes will be made through voluntary severance, retraining and redeployment.
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