Train operators may be handed job of repairing their own track

Money-saving plan to urge a return towards the days when British Rail did everything

Private train companies could be handed responsibility for trackrepairs in a move that campaigners warn will put profit before safety.

A major study designed to reduce the £5bn cost of subsidising the rail industry is expected to recommend stripping Network Rail of responsibility for lines in at least seven regions, with "vertical integration" of train firms and maintenance.

The report by Sir Roy McNulty, the former head of the Civil Aviation Authority, is due to be published this week. It is expected to say that the Office of Rail Regulation should ensure there is "greater emphasis on the cost implications of safety regulation", leading to concerns that work could be delayed to save money.

Sir Roy will say that vertical integration "has potential" in areas where franchises and maintenance contracts are ready, notably Anglia, ScotRail, South West Trains, Southern and Southeastern, Merseyrail, Wales and Western regions. The benefits could be between £1.6bn and £5.5bn.

However, critics will point to the tragic history of private firms being responsible for safety. Last week Network Rail apologised for the 2002 Potters Bar rail crash in which seven died. It was fined £3m. Railtrack was the private infrastructure company in charge at the time, but Network Rail, created when the industry was renationalised, has shouldered the responsibility.

Railtrack was fined £4m after the 1999 Paddington crash which killed 31 people, and in 2005 Network Rail was found guilty of breaching health and safety legislation in the run-up to the 2000 Hatfield crash, in which four died, and which led to the renationalisation of rail infrastructure.

Pam Warren, a survivor of the Paddington crash, claims cutting corners on safety to save money is the "economics of the loony bin" and risks repeating the devastating incidents that blighted the railways in the 1990s and early 2000s. She said she could "understand" the need to find savings, and believes the pay of industry executives and budgets for station refurbishments could be trimmed. But she told The Independent on Sunday that safety "has to be kept independent so that the public's lives are not put at risk".

Leaked documents from the review seen by The IoS, including a presentation given to the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, suggest the industry changes would provide "clear and credible leadership in relation to safety and risk management". It stresses safety should be "good management practice rather than a bolt-on".

However, Keith Norman, general secretary of the Aslef rail union, warned against private firms taking on responsibility for infrastructure once again. "Reintroducing the profit motive into the maintenance of infrastructure would be a very dangerous step. How many times do we need to make the same mistake? Do we really want safety standards to be decided by accountants? The maintenance of the track must remain under public control."

Mr Hammond is expected place greater emphasis on co-operation in the industry. He will dismiss the suggestion from unions that only publicly owned companies take safety seriously, pointing to the record of private airlines. Mr Hammond will also stress that any changes to the way the rail industry is run will mean getting a better deal for passengers and taxpayers. In particular, the pay and perks of rail industry staff are likely to be targeted, igniting a major row with unions. For example, 500,000 former British Rail employees receive benefits including up to 50 hours' free travel and 75 per cent off fares.

Network Rail currently employs around 35,000 people, with another 49,000 working for train operating companies. In a speech last week Mr Hammond said: "A 21st-century rail network needs 21st-century employment practices. With fares and levels of taxpayer support already so high, it would be simply irresponsible for us to ignore this issue any longer. Addressing inefficient working practices and excessive wage demands will form a key part of the strategy for building a sustainable and affordable railway."

Sir Roy is also expected to recommend lifting the cap on fares, rises in car parking costs at stations, the closure of ticket offices and fewer staff on stations and trains. Bob Crow, the general secretary of the RMT rail union, has vowed to "fight this attack on jobs, safety and service quality every step of the way".

A survivor's story

Pam Warren became an active campaigner in the wake of the Paddington crash of 5 October 1999, which killed 31 people and injured 520. After suffering horrific burns, inset, she had to wear a surgical mask for 18 months. Now writing an autobiography which she hopes will help others overcome trauma, she is also working for BBC Radio Berkshire and the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust

"I am now catching the train again – with a friend who keeps me calm. I have had a major flashback while he has been with me, which was a bit frightening for him, but as long as he keeps talking and keeps my mind away from the fact we are on a train, I'm fine.

"I still keep an eye on safety issues, because I feel, if I am putting my life back on the line, I want to know that they are still taking safety seriously.

"Sir Roy McNulty has been looking into this for quite a while. I thought, 'Why isn't anyone saying anything because the red flag should be raised now?' There was an awful lot of reference to risk and incentive rewards. I don't like that terminology at all. Back in 2000-01 it came across quite clearly that the rail industry considered it cheaper to pay compensation to those who were injured or killed than it was to do some of the improvements. You can almost see the recipe beginning again. That, to me, is the economics of the loony bin. Safety has to be kept independent, so that the public's lives are not put at risk.

"I started campaigning quite quickly after the crash and I thought I was fine. After 10 years you have probably been through the yucky bits like drinking too much and depression. It was only on the 10th anniversary that I thought, 'Actually I can take it or leave it. I can walk away from it now – I'm not the train crash victim any more'."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen