RAIL SAFETY will only improve if Railtrack audits the technical competence of all track workers, Lord Cullen's report on the Ladbroke Grove and Hatfield crashes is expected to say later this year.
He is also expected to call for greater clarity over who is responsible for the technical side of safety work, as well as demanding greater controls over working hours for track workers.
The second part of Lord Cullen's report, which was ordered by the Health & Safety Commission, is expected next month. It follows his inquiry into the Paddington and Hatfield rail crashes and will deal specifically with the safety issues raised by the structure of the rail industry.
At present the competence of track workers is only checked by contractors employing them, with Railtrack making cursory checks.
It is expected that in the future Railtrack will have to take more direct control over the employment of these workers, to ensure they have adequate training to carry out specific jobs.
Before rail privatisation, operatives employed by British Rail had to undertake rigorous training courses and site trials.
But training standards now depend on individual contractors and there have been calls for more standardisation.
Railtrack said that although it is looking at improving safety 'the system does not take away the onus from the contractor'.
It said it was already looking at ways of tightening up the supply base, with just a few preferred labour suppliers in each area.