Major railway incidents more likely due to Network Rail cuts

Major railway incidents more likely due to Network Rail cuts

7 December 2023

RMT Press Office:

Over 90% of Network Rail workers think a major railway incident is likely to happen in the next two years because of cuts, an RMT survey shows.

Network Rail plans to cut £1.2bn of its budget between 2024 and 2029, leading to an overwhelming majority of its staff fearing future accidents and serious safety-related incidents on the railway. 

These cuts include abandoning track renewals for at least the next 5 years and the permanent loss of highly specialised, skilled jobs and equipment as reports of broken rails on our aging infrastructure rise. 

In a damning indictment of these changes, 96% of Network Rail workers say the cuts in the next five years will worsen railway safety, with 77% of members saying it will ‘substantially worsen rail safety.’ 

Anonymous testimony backs up the statistics with RMT members on Network Rail saying: 

  • "Planned cuts have staff morale at an all time low as it’s us who maintain the railway and management aren’t listening to us about the seriousness of cutting maintenance schedules and diluting skill levels on jobs. It’s front line staff that will carry the can for any serious incidents!!! "
  • "Not enough staff left to complete both faults and maintenance. Maintenance is being prioritised but still goes into backlog. Faults are left for days or weeks sometimes. Signallers are already complaining about the growing list of outstanding faults."
  • "Not enough staff even for the minimum safety maintenance work, using contractors that are not fully qualified for the jobs."
  • "Less staff, less heads working together on a problem. - more pressure on individuals causing them to seek medical help as the pressure to get things done is still the same as before but now with less men. Therefore productivity has taken a dip as the overall work force and work culture has lead to over stressed employees. Along with a shortage of staff, you can see that how this formula in any industry would be impacted and is not a healthy model."
  • "I am rail testing team leader already since modernising maintenance has started there have been more broken rails in the last 6 weeks than we have had in years. That is not just on my route but all over the country. Our training centre…is getting broken rails brought to them to for inspection every week now."
  • "On the western east route we have had several broken rails and crossings due to lack of staff." 

Other key stats in the survey include: 

  • 77.4% of Network Rail workers think the railway is less safe than it was 2 years ago. 
  • 94.3% believe performance and reliability will worsen during the next 5-year period. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “These shocking survey results show the real fears of our members on the front line, as the reality of funding cuts to rail becomes clear. 

“These cuts mean Network Rail will not renew a single mile of track for the next 5-8 years and the permanent loss of specialist workforce and equipment currently delivering 70% of Britain’s Track Renewals.  

"Instead, passengers will experience a planned and deliberate reduction of the railway service as reliance on speed restrictions becomes the norm to mitigate the increased safety risk posed by decrepit rail tracks. 

“We are watching the managed decline of a national asset. 

“They must reverse these extremely damaging cuts and move to a genuine public ownership model which sees increased investment year on year and safety for rail workers and user as the number one priority.” 



  • Government funding settlement for the next five-year Railway Control Period 7 from 2024 to 2029 will result in a £1.2bn cut in Network Rail's budget  
  • RMT surveyed Network Rail members across the company with 977 members from England and Wales taking part 

Key survey results:  

Q. Do you think the railway is safer or less safe than it was 2 years ago? 

The railway is substantially safer 1.54%    

The railway is moderately safer 6.25% 

No change          14.86%   

The railway is moderately less safe         33.20%   

The railway is substantially less safe     44.16%    


Q. To what extent do you think the proposed cuts to renewals in the next five-year control period (CP7) will impact rail safety? 

Will substantially improve rail safety       0.41% 

Will moderately improve rail safety         0.51% 

Will not make any difference      2.66% 

Will moderately worsen rail safety 19.88% 

Will substantially worsen rail safety 76.54% 


Q. Based upon your experience do you think there is an increased risk of a major rail safety incident occurring on the railway within the next two years? 

Very likely          57.42% 

Likely    34.39% 

Neither likely nor unlikely 5.94% 

Unlikely                0.82% 

Very unlikely 1.43% 


Q. To what extent do you think the proposed cuts to renewals in the next five-year control period (CP7) will impact rail performance and reliability? 

Will substantially improve rail performance and reliability              1.13% 

Will moderately improve rail performance and reliability                0.72% 

will not make any difference to rail performance and reliability 3.90% 

Will moderately worsen rail performance and reliability 26.69% 

Will substantially worsen rail performance and reliability 67.56% 

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Tagged with: RMT, Mick Lynch, Network Rail, Maintenance,