Labour Research (February 2016)

Health & Safety Matters

Network Rail sell-off would impair safety

Privatising Network Rail could lead to declining safety standards, says a new report commissioned by the TUC and the rail unions’ Action for Rail Campaign. 

The report, Staying on the right track,is a response to a government consultation — the Shaw report — looking at the future of Network Rail, the “not-for-dividend” company that owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure. The Shaw report raises privatisation as a possible option.

But Staying on the right track says that under Network Rail’s privatised predecessor, Railtrack, there were far more workplace accidents, broken rails and trains ignoring emergency signals. And it warns that devolving or selling off Network Rail to companies could threaten the substantial improvements in passenger safety made since Railtrack’s collapse. 

Rail union RMT general secretary Mick Cash warned against those who want to “drag us back to the lethal days of Railtrack and the disasters at Hatfield and Potters Bar”. And Bobby Morton, national officer for passenger transport at the Unite general union, said that it would be “madness” to revert to a “discredited business model where profit trumped all other considerations”. 

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the ASLEF train drivers’ union, said that there should be no return to “the spectre of compromised safety and investment”.

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