A NEW Railtrack standard to improve track worker safety has been withdrawn just weeks before its implementation date because of fears that it would increase danger to staff.
Industry safety body Railway Safety last week wrote to suppliers saying that the new standard, which governs how staff work on DC electrified lines, increased risk to staff and had been deferred for at least a year.
Suppliers told NCE this week that they had been claiming for months that the proposed new edition protected equipment but not staff.
Issue three of the Railway Group Standard GO/RT3091 was originally due to be implemented last December.
Railtrack chief engineer Andrew McNaughton then wrote to industry safety body Railway Safety, which implements the standards, saying Railtrack did not believe that enough suppliers had trained staff up to the new standard and that its introduction had been deferred until April.
Labour suppliers this week criticised Railtrack, claiming that the on-off implementation saga had proved very expensive and had left them short of trained staff.
One supplier said Railtrack's dithering had left it without enough trained staff as it had stopped training people to edition two standard as it was supposedly about to be phased out.
He added that it had cost suppliers 'a lot of money' as they had had to invest in new portfolios that outlined the changes and had lost money training staff to edition three standards.
Problems have also arisen with new equipment specified by Railtrack for workers working on electrified lines.
One supplier said that no manufacturer had been selected to make a new type of short circuit strip that bonds two rails together while clamping on to the conductor rail, causing a short circuit in the event of power being turned back on when workers were still present.
He said that as the new straps had not yet been approved by Railtrack, none were being manufactured and once contractors had run out of the old straps they were using, no more would be available.