Letter: A safer railway

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THE Health and Safety Executive's Railway Inspectorate is right to spotlight areas of the UK railway where maintenance may be in doubt or the scale of deterioration may warrant track renewal ("Railtrack warned of safety prosecutions", 3 March).

However, the management of maintenance, renewal and investments involves considerable logistical and safety considerations, not least the management of "possessions", whereby track is made available for work and handed back for service at agreed intervals. The need is to minimise the disruption of operations. The chief consideration is safety but operational issues are not far behind.

The public needs to understand that under-investment in the network and the operating railway over the last 10 to 15 years cannot be reversed overnight. Already we are witnessing the largest scales of investment ever seen. Investment announced by Railtrack some time ago is already under way. Some pounds 260m was committed over the last 12 months, a total of pounds 2.58bn to 2007. Announcements by Virgin for West Coast and Cross Country stock; by EWS on freight stock; by Railtrack for investment in stations, permanent way, signalling and new train control systems are just the headlines. Train operators, suppliers and contractors are also investing in technology, capacity, human capital and new management systems. The full effects of these announcements will not be visible for a few years.

The inspector is right to raise criticism, but he is pushing an open door.


Managing Director, The QSS Group