We have serious concerns about the government’s direction of travel on rail safety.
The Rail Command Paper constantly stresses the need for “cost-effective” approaches to safety, avoiding “expensive infrastructure solutions” wherever possible. In the context of greater control of infrastructure management by private train operators, this presents real fears that we will return to the days of Hatfield where profit-driven cost-cutting led to the neglect of track maintenance and renewal with ultimately tragic consequences.
A train operating company seeking to maximise profits and dividends to shareholders, while at the same time looking to find £700m savings a year, may well regard track replacement as “an expensive infrastructure solution” to be avoided. Passengers may think otherwise.
The loss of thousands of station and train staff also presents real safety concerns. The closure of ticket offices and the loss of platform and other station staff means that many stations will become deserted, particularly during off peak hours and late nights. There are very real threats to personal security arising from these proposals, particularly for vulnerable passengers.
The removal of guards from trains and the move to make all trains Driver Only Operations means that in the event of accidents and emergencies there will be no other staff on hand to play their critical role in helping passengers.