Jarvis slammed over rail maintenance

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The Independent Online

Jarvis, the company at the centre of the investigation into the Potters Bar rail crash, stands accused of a catalogue of serious lapses in the maintenance of the network.

Jarvis, the company at the centre of the investigation into the Potters Bar rail crash, stands accused of a catalogue of serious lapses in the maintenance of the network.

Arriva Trains, which operates two franchises where Jarvis has responsibility for maintenance, has written to the rail regulator expressing concern over the "compe- tency of contractors used".

The letter, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, states: "Some recent examples ... include tools being left on the line both during and after work to be struck by trains; lines being blocked with ballast without the contractor realising this has happened; poor repairs leading to repeat failures of items of infrastructure kit; and [in Merseyside] forgetting to fasten the third rail to the insulator pots following a renewal." The "third rail" is electrified, providing power to trains.

Arriva doesn't name Jarvis in the letter, written by group development director Roger Cobbe. But Network Rail, owner of the railway infrastructure, confirmed Jarvis is the contractor on Arriva's franchise in Merseyside and carries out around 80 per cent of maintenance on Arriva's north of England franchise. A spokesman for Network Rail confirmed that the lapses "were now being looked into" and details had been passed on to its regional offices in Manchester and York. "We can't deny that some of the incidents have happened. We are working with the contractor to ensure that it doesn't happen again," said the spokesman.

A Jarvis spokesman said: "Jarvis takes any incident relating to the quality of our work extremely seriously. All incidents are immediately investigated and the appropriate action taken."

Arriva's letter was part of a wider response to the regulation of Network Rail, the not-for-profit company which last year replaced Railtrack. In it, Arriva also questions Network Rail's supervision and monitoring of its contractors.

However, Network Rail is preparing to seize power back from its contractors, which include Amey, Amec, Balfour Beatty and Carillon. Under Railtrack, the contractors were given full responsibility for upkeep, management and safety on the lines. But under the so-called New Maintenance Plan these will be returned to Network Rail, to be completed by the end of next year. This is expected to involve the compulsory transfer of hundreds of senior engineers from the contractors to Network Rail.

The company has also taken over three maintenance contracts. Network Rail insists that it has no further plans to bring maintenance in-house.

News of the maintenance lapses on Arriva's franchises will be a further blow to Jarvis, headed by chief executive Paris Moayedi. British Transport Police are still investigating the cause of the Potters Bar crash. Jarvis claims sabotage is a possible cause. After the derailment, which killed seven people, it emerged that two sets of nuts were missing at the points which caused the accident.

The Health and Safety Executive is also investigating and is expected to publish its initial findings in the next few months.

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