Exclusive: Network Rail summons contractor to explain series of serious accidents

Head of BAM quizzed on plans to improve safety on the tracks

Mark Leftly
Monday 10 November 2014 01:40

Network Rail has hauled in the chief executive of its fourth biggest supplier to explain a series of accidents, believed to include a contractor who was airlifted from Cardiff Central station with “pelvic crush injuries”.

The state-backed operator of the track and stations spent nearly £210m on projects with the 148-year-old construction and civil engineering group BAM Nuttall last year. But Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, was dismayed by what recent board minutes described as “several serious incidents”, and took the rare step of summoning BAM’s boss Stephen Fox to face the board and discuss plans to improve safety.

The minutes did not name the supplier, but The Independent has confirmed it was Surrey-based BAM, which is one of the UK construction industry’s biggest companies with 2013 revenue of £756m.

The minutes state: “A hard line had been taken with the supplier and the company’s hard line had been communicated to all major suppliers.”

A Network Rail source said that major contractors that have “a series of workforce injuries which raises concerns” are expected to tell the board “what their investigation found and the learnings they’ve taken from that”.

Industry sources suggested that two more suppliers might have subsequently been forced to explain themselves as Mr Carne looks to improve the railways’ safety record.

Last year, the number of workforce injuries on the mainline network was 6,040, a 3.5 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. The regulator has approved plans to give Network Rail more than £250m of dedicated funding to better protect workers on tracks over the next five years.

In September it was reported that a BAM contractor in his forties suffered severe blood loss when he was crushed under machinery on a project at Cardiff. Network Rail said at the time that it would conduct a “thorough investigation into this incident to find out what happened and make sure it does not happen again”.

Later that month, BAM was fined £140,000 and ordered to pay costs of £42,700 after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety law in December 2010 in a prosecution by the Office of Rail Regulation. BAM was Network Rail’s principal contractor on the demolition and replacement of a bridge in south London, where a subcontractor was badly injured when a beam fell on him. BAM was found to have not assessed the risks properly.

A spokesman for BAM said that Mr Fox had “reaffirmed” the company’s commitment to health and safety at the meeting in September. He argued that BAM’s record was “among the best in the industry” and cited awards that have been “made by Network Rail itself”.

The company has invested more than £2m in a programme called Beyond Zero, which has heightened “awareness on personal health and safety issues”.

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