TRACK RENEWAL work at weekends and overnight is being targeted in the National Union of Railway, Maritime & Transport Workers' current industrial dispute that could cost contractors millions.
The strategy of disrupting this work could prevent the contractors securing huge performance bonuses. Last year Railtrack paid out £48M to contractors who completed work within tight track possession times.
A union spokesman claimed that virtually all of Railtrack's renewal programme was wiped out during the four day strike action. The union has set a seven day action for next week in protest over new pay and work conditions for rail infrastructure workers.
In a separate statement, the union also claimed that Railtrack had compromised safety standards by abandoning ultrasonic checks on rails in the 48 hour period leading up to the strike.
However, Railtrack denied endangering passengers and promised to 'ensure that work is done which is immediately vital to the safe operation of the railway and will make sure that staff are available to deal with emergencies like broken rails and signal failures and, if necessary, they will not hesitate to close a section of line in order to ensure safety.'
The Health & Safety Executive said its inspectors would be monitoring the arrangements and carrying out spot checks on strike days.