My previous postings about Network rail have related to the extreme frustration I and colleagues have felt at trying to engage the Company in our attempts to improve the sound quality on station platforms for travellers and neighbours alike. Whilst we managed to speak to train operators who expressed a willingness to test our proposed system on a suitable platform, Network Rail proved impervious to our approaches and simply refused to consider any technology which they had not already approved for use. However todays blog may point to some of the causes of this inability to consider things from a different point of view.
Weekend disruption on the Railway is not new, and the use of bank holidays such as Christmas and Boxing Day to carry out upgrades to the national train system that overrun their planned timetable is as much part of the winter calendar as football matches on Boxing Day. Whilst the bank holiday at the end of May is a different matter due primarily to the warmer weather, the reaction by Network Rail to the strike planned for a week on Monday seems to be selective criticism which ignores the many problems that the Company creates for the travelling public most weekends. Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, is quoted in this statement on the companies website: “This strike is deliberately timed to cause maximum disruption to families trying to enjoy the half-term break and millions more returning to work after the bank holiday. I find it deplorable that the RMT can hold the travelling public to ransom in this way.” Mr Carne also speaks in a manner that is rather confusing about the background reasons for the Strike. He says “We want to work with the unions so that we can reward our staff through improved productivity.” but then goes on to say “The RMT say we can afford more than what’s on offer. What they don’t say is that Network Rail is a public service body and that all profits are reinvested in building a bigger, better, more reliable railway. Any pay increase comes from the pockets of taxpayers and fare paying passengers.”
I cannot quite square why it is acceptable to reward staff from improved productivity, but not from the operating surplus that Mr Carne has earmarked for reliability improvements. Surely Mr Carne recognises that investing profits in the staff who work on our railways is as important as investing in improved technical reliability, although as I have already mentioned, my experience of Network Rail is that it has been unwilling to explore better technological solutions for the railway platforms that so many of us use on a regular basis.