Network Rail has announced that approximately 500 maintenance employees will be leaving the company by the end of May as a result of “productivity improvements” over the last two years.
The 500 people are leaving as part of the company’s voluntary redundancy programme and are in addition to the 235 volunteers who took redundancy in January 2010.
Network Rail currently employs around 18,000 people to maintain the railway but is increasing productivity through improved technology and a newer asset base - track, signalling systems and power supplies. This combination of new infrastructure which needs less maintenance, together with the elimination of over-manning and outdated working practices, is allowing the company to reduce its employee numbers and costs while still maintaining a safe and efficient railway.
“This is good news for our employees”
Steve Featherstone, Network Rail
It is expected that a further 200 or more employees will leave the company under the voluntary scheme in the coming months.
Network Rail’s planned changes in maintenance have been scrutinised by the UK’s independent safety regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, which supports the proposed changes.
Network Rail director of maintenance Steve Featherstone said new infrastructure, new technology and new ways of working means the company can maintain the railway more safely and efficiently than ever before with fewer people.
“This is good news for our employees,” he said. “Those who are leaving get a severance package and those who remain for the long-term will be part of a flexible and more skilled workforce who can deliver better value for money. That is the best way to safeguard skilled jobs in the future.”
Rail union RMT had called a maintenance strike for 6-9 April, but abandoned the action when a separate signallers strike was stopped via a High Court injunction. Talks have been held at ACAS in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement, but were adjourned on Monday 19 April and are due to re-start on 22 April.
Talks to resolve the separate dispute with signallers resume today.