Union says government cannot bury its head in the sand over chaotic overhead line collapses

Tim Lezard

RMTThe RMT has called for urgent talks with Network Rail over a spate of overhead line failures which has seen three major breakdowns on Intercity routes out of London in the last three weeks.

The lines have been pulled down in a repeat of similar incidents at Radlett and St Neots on the East Coast mainline in past two weeks – all three causing travel chaos for passengers. The latest incident happened early yesterday morning near on the West Coast mainline near Milton Keynes.

RMT wants Network Rail to address the following issues:

·         Cuts to maintenance staffing that have left teams slashed to the bone with only a skeleton crew on immediate call to deal with major breakdowns

·         A huge and growing backlog in outstanding maintenance on the OHL’s reported to the union by members

·         More than £200 million unspent in the NWR maintenance account despite the fact that there are severe staff shortages and a mounting works backlog.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The government, the ORR and NWR cannot continue to bury their heads in the sand when it is crystal clear from the chaotic events of recent weeks that there is a major crisis in terms of staffing and capacity on the overhead lines. Hundreds of thousands of passengers have been hit by the fall-out of the three major overhead line collapses in recent weeks and they are right to ask just what is going on.

“RMT members have reported OHL crews cut to the bone and a growing backlog of essential works at a time when NWR are sitting on more than £200 million unspent in the maintenance budget which should be immediately reinvested in reversing cuts and ensuring that the maintenance capacity is brought back up to an acceptable level. They cannot argue that the money isn’t there as its sitting in their budgets unspent at a time when recent events show that it is so obviously needed.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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