NR report slams working practices

Engineers work on a rail bridge

An independent study published by Nichols and commissioned by Network Rail claims the rail industry lags behind other comparable sectors in the UK and Europe, especially in the way it deploys people.

It highlighted how improvements could be made by introducing individual rather than team rostering, training and deploying specialist and multi-skilled teams with broad knowledge to enable first-response staff to fix faults and get services resuming more quickly, and increasing and accelerating the use of technology to improve staff safety.

NR argues the report backs its calls for modernisation of working practices in areas such as maintenance – the subject of the current dispute with the RMT union. 

The report highlights issues such as how team managers are required to agree rosters up to a year ahead and to roster teams together. NR says it can be hard to change rosters if more than one team is needed for the work. 

Maintenance responsibility, meanwhile, is divided into NR’s 14 routes and then into more maintenance delivery units. Currently organised into track, signalling and telecoms and electrification and plant teams of three or four people, NR says creating joint multidisciplinary teams will cut the number of staff needed to maintain the network and ensure work can be carried out across geographic boundaries. 

Chief Executive Andrew Haines said: ‘Britain deserves a railway maintenance regime that is modern and fit for the 21st century. Obstructing vital changes that make the railway and its workers safer, and that improve the reliability of services we provide, is in no one’s interest. With common sense and compromise, our proposals can deliver millions of pounds in savings that we can then translate into a better pay offer for all our people. It’s a win-win.’