Unions warn of 'stealth privatisation' of railways
Safety fears as Government approves Network Rail alliance with Stagecoach
The Government is expected to rubberstamp rail plans this week that unions claim could risk lives and that are "even worse than privatisation by stealth".
Network Rail, the state-backed owner and operator of Britain's rail infrastructure, is finalising the details of a pilot scheme that will see it and Ftse 250 group Stagecoach jointly run a section of the network.
It is hoped that the so-called deep alliance will be in place next month and it is thought the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation could sign off the proposal in the next few days.
However, railway unions are concerned that this is a very similar set-up to that run under Network Rail's predecessor, Railtrack, which took some blame for the Hatfield and Potters Bar derailments in 2000 and 2002 respectively.
These disasters spelt the end for Railtrack, which collapsed with huge losses in late 2002. It farmed out track maintenance to private sector contractors.
Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, said: "We see this as even worse than privatisation by stealth as it puts the track in the hands of the poacher to do the gamekeeper's job. If you reintroduce the profit motive like this then we have got health and safety concerns."
The deal will see Stagecoach subsidiary South West Trains form a joint management team with Network Rail for the Wessex route operating out of London Waterloo. This team would look after both trains and tracks, but there are fears that the private sector will dominate the alliance: South West Trains managing director Tim Shoveller will lead the combined team.
The alliance will be the only one of its type during the current control period – the five-year planning system that Network Rail uses to sort out its budget and operations – which ends in 2014.
However, under reforms proposed in a report by Sir Roy McNulty last year to improve value for money in the rail industry, more of these alliances are expected to follow in a few years.
Rail industry sources have dismissed many of the unions' concerns, believing that their real focus is that by merging teams, some jobs will ultimately be lost due to duplication of responsibilities. For example, only one team planning the timetable would be necessary rather than two thrashing it out to get the best deal for their employer.
One source argued: "Look, under these proposals both South West Trains and Network Rail retain their existing regulatory frameworks. The only change is that there is a single management team; there is no change to the safety regime. The arguments don't bear scrutiny."
The unions are also concerned about the future of rail freight, as they believe that private companies would push through more passenger trains, where they derive much of their revenue.
Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way
Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls
Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis
Ottawa shooting: Canadian soldier dies after being shot at National War Memorial – with one gunman killed inside parliament
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Banksy not arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
Diwali 2014: What is the festival of lights and how is it celebrated around the world?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...