Our ref: HSR
Head Office Circular: NP/14/24
16th January 2024
To: The Secretary
SAFE STAFFING OF NETWORK RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE
Your Birmingham Engineering Branch has submitted the following resolution:
This branch notes that 12th December 2024 marked the 35th anniversary of the Clapham Junction rail disaster. The branch is therefore noting the RAIB report 11/23 in which two trains ended up being in a section at once because of a “wrong side failure”. This failure occurred because contracting staff, who were required to disconnect and reconnect a signal cable for engineering work, disconnected internal wiring in a location cabinet and then reconnected them incorrectly. The contracting staff who were unfamiliar with both the geographical area, the signalling system and failed to test the signal circuit correctly following reconnection. When the failure was revealed, it was necessary for NR maintenance staff to attend, rectify the failure and test to ensure the correct working of the signal. Clearly this reinforces the Unions policy that this work should brought back in house. The branch is worried that with so called “Modernising Maintenance” and cuts to the maintenance budget that in the future there will not be the Network Rail staff to come to the rescue!
Additionally, the branch expressed concerns with the recent RMT news release concerning the discovery of cracked rails. The branch believes that NR have an over reliance on the use of “test trains”, as a means of conducting maintenance patrols. However, problems arise when the test train does not run for any reason. In such cases maintenance staff have to be redeployed from other planned tasks in order to conduct manual inspections of the track that should have been inspected by the test train. This clearly has a “knock on” effect resulting in delays in other essential safety maintenance tasks being conducted. The branch believes that “test trains” should supplement the maintenance staff and not replace them.
Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities have occurred from either of these incidents. However. the branch believes that it shows the essential role that NR maintenance staff provide in ensuring the safety of the railway. The branch therefore requests the NEC uses these incidents to put pressure on the ORR, Network Rail to ensure that not only is the naintenance budget fully funded but also fully staffed. The branch believes when experienced staff retire, they should be replaced with suitability qualified staff in order to ensure the safety integrity of the system. We believe this is imperative if we are to avoid another Clapham and/or Hadfield.
At its meeting on 11th January 2024 your National Executive Committee noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety sub-committee:
The General Secretary is instructed to thank Birmingham Engineering branch for their resolution – and to include the points raised by the branch as part of RMTs political and press campaign highlighting the impact Modernising Maintenance is having on railway safety standards. Additionally, for the General Secretary to raise such matters in meetings with ORR.
Branches and Regional Councils to be advised accordingly.
This file to be merged with file: ‘Safety Impact of Modernising Maintenance’.
I am acting in line with these instructions. Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.
Michael Lynch, General Secretary