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12 July: news in brief

Union urges ban on contracted-out track work

THE RMT has called for an ‘absolute ban’ on the contracting-out of track work, after the RAIB’s report into the death of a contractor’s employee near Purley on the Brighton Main Line last November. The man who died when he was hit by a train had a zero hours contract, and should have been accompanied by an assistant who had not turned up for work that night. The RAIB said: ‘Underlying factors associated with the accident were the nature of the work which exposed the track worker to risk while he was putting out protection for the possession, that the labour supplier’s management processes had not sufficiently identified and addressed the risk of fatigue among zero hours contracted staff and that the labour supplier’s management processes had neither identified nor prevented staff absenting themselves from work without being detected.’ RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Once again the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has criticised safety standards for the protection of track workers. This latest shocking report should force real change across the industry and it should force it right now. Warning after warning from this trade union on fatigue, zero hours and casualisation has not been properly addressed by Network Rail or the safety regulator the ORR.’

East Coast bank holiday possession ‘astonishingly ill-timed’

NORTHERN Powerhouse minister Jake Berry is urging Network Rail to think again over the timing of a major possession at the end of August which will close the East Coast Main Line over the bank holiday weekend. Travel to a number of events will be affected, including the Ashes Test Match at Headingley, Leeds Festival and the final day of the Ebor festival at York racecourse. Mr Berry told the Yorkshire Post: ‘The August Bank Holiday weekend must surely be one of the busiest for the rail network. I totally understand and support work that will improve the quality of the service and bring more visitors to the North but for it to take place on this weekend – of all weekends – seems to me astonishingly ill-timed.’ The minister also criticised the timing of publicity for the closure. ‘The situation has been made far worse by Network Rail’s decision not to communicate the closure until a few weeks before the shut down – even though I understand it has been in the calendar for a year,’ he said. In response, Network Rail said: ‘What is clear from the feedback we are receiving is that the information flow from our briefings has not been as good as we would hope and this is something that as an industry we are committed to improve as this work progresses.’ Earlier, Network Rail’s Eastern managing director Rob McIntosh had said: ‘This work is vital and will bring long term benefits for all users of the route, including more seats and faster and more reliable journeys. These improvements will enable us to continue to provide a service which meets the needs of the passengers, communities and economies we serve.’

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