RAILTRACK SHOULD carry out its own maintenance work rather than contract it out if it is to improve rail safety, the Rail Maritime & Transport Workers Union told MPs last week.
The track operator should also allow the Government to sit on its board of directors, to ensure that subsidies for rail improvements are spent as effectively as possible, the union's general secretary Jimmy Knapp said.
Speaking at a Commons transport subcommittee meeting, Knapp said that Railtrack's external contractors were often more focused on re-tendering for work rather than on safety.
Currnetly, Railtrack has little control over how maintenance is carried out because of the 'fragmented' practice of using more than one maintenance contractor.
'The time has arrived for a more radical approach, ' said Knapp. 'It's been shown that 75% of contractors' management time is spent securing the contract.'
Richard Brown, chairman of the Association of Train Operating Companies, agreed that Railtrack should have more control over its maintenance contractors. 'There has to be a change in the relationship between Railtrack and its contractors, ' he told the subcommittee.
He added that the Railtrack board needed to increase its technical expertise. 'Technical experts are low down the management chain, which is a fundamental flaw, ' he said.