Rail funding cuts will increase risk of serious train crashes, union warns

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Further cuts to rail funding will lead to “serious” train crashes, trade unions have warned.

A report by the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) stated that Network Rail plans to slash its annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 maintenance jobs.

The union organisation believes it is “impossible” to make such cuts without losing “safety-critical jobs”.

It also warned that train timetables will be reduced as the Treasury has ordered the Department for Transport (DfT) to bring down its annual budget by 10%.

Network Rail is looking to cut back annual expenditure by £100m (PA)

The TUC’s report said: “These cuts threaten essential services and maintenance, and increase the risk of the types of accidents that marked the first decades of privatised rail.”

Britain’s railways were hit by a series of deadly crashes in the years after train operation was privatised in the mid-1990s.

These included accidents at Southall, west London in September 1997; Ladbroke Grove, west London in October 1999; Hatfield, Hertfordshire in October 2000; and Potters Bar, Hertfordshire in May 2002.

Infrastructure maintenance was the responsibility of private firm Railtrack during this period.

The company was replaced by public sector body Network Rail in October 2002.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want good transport links for our community, with frequent, safe, reliable and affordable trains.

“But if the Network Rail cuts go ahead it will mean the loss of safety-critical jobs and a greater risk of serious accidents like Stonehaven, Potters Bar and Hatfield.

“Ministers must not risk passenger safety through funding cuts to Network Rail.”

Dudley News: Frances O'Grady called for funding cuts to be avoided (PA)Frances O’Grady called for funding cuts to be avoided (PA)

On the potential for cuts in services, Ms O’Grady said: “Our railways are still recovering after the pandemic. The last thing the Government should be doing is slashing funding.

“But ministers are demanding cuts that would disrupt services and see fewer trains on our railways.

“We need a better vision for the future of Britain’s railways than commuters packed like sardines in unsafe trains.”

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are being balloted for strikes over jobs, pay and working conditions, while the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is also threatening action.

The RMT claims a yes vote could lead to the biggest rail strike in modern history.

Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee that “we had to put in £15 billion to ensure that not a single person lost their job and that we could keep a railway running”.

The Cabinet minister said: “We need to modernise our railway in response to the change in travel patterns.”

He added: “We have to have workforce reform, otherwise we will literally be expecting the taxpayer to pay for our railways and not for our NHS.”

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