Socialist Worker

Rail privatisation has derailed track safety

Issue No. 2087

Railway track maintenance by Network Rail is so poor that it could be putting passengers’ lives at risk.

That is the finding of a disturbing but unpublished report by government rail inspectors, HMRI.

The report, which has been seen by Radio Four, highlights systematic failures by the publicly owned company responsible for the upkeep of track.

It also points to a massive shortfall in the number of skilled engineers required to check and repair the system.

The report was carried out after a serious derailment in Greyrigg, Cumbria, killed one and injured dozens more.

The HMRI, which surveyed 28 areas of the country, says that whole sections of track are not inspected regularly enough and that engineers often run out of time to perform critical maintenance.


Socialist Worker spoke to a railway engineer about the issues raised in the report.

“Privatisation had the immediate effect of breaking up and reducing the skills base of railway engineering,” he said.

“Since privatisation, training across the industry has been at best fragmented, and at worst completely lost.

“The infrastructure maintenance companies that mushroomed were competing against each other and training was cut back because staff could be poached from rivals.

“When Network Rail started taking maintenance back in-house it was a step towards a more integrated system, but progress has been incredibly slow.”

The HMRI’s report follows that of the department of transport’s rail accident investigation unit, which looked at a string of derailments, and concluded that many known track faults were not being repaired.

Both reports are damning verdicts on the privatisation of the railways.

They should form part of a demand for a massive increase in government investment.

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Article information

Tue 5 Feb 2008, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2087
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