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Rail bridge inspection safety row flares ahead of strike

A rail safety row over Network Rail’s bridge inspections has flared ahead of crucial talks aimed at averting a strike over Easter.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said it had been leaked documents showing that Network Rail was in breach of health and safety legislation over bridge inspections in Kent, Anglia and Wessex.

According to the union, the Office of Rail Regulation warned the rail firm that its inspection regime was “seriously out of date” and “did not meet the requirements of the standard for such matters” in these areas.

They served an improvement notice on the company giving it until March 31 to ensure that the “current backlog of inspections” is carried out and “that an effective monitoring regime is put in place for visual inspections to ensure that they are carried out to the required standard and within the appropriate timescale”, said the TSSA.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We would never compromise on safety. Such accusations are simply wrong. It’s disappointing to see one of the unions we hope to have meaningful discussions with today grandstanding in this way.”

The row flared ahead of crucial talks between the TSSA, the Rail Maritime and Transport union and NR under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

It also emerged that dates for strikes could be set on Thursday unless there is progress during the talks, which are aimed at resolving a row over NR’s plans to cut 1,500 maintenance jobs.

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