Network Rail’s Capital Delivery Eastern has told its staff that up to one third of of jobs are going. So much for ‘Build Back Better’! Everyone is now worried about what's coming our way.
Capital Delivery Eastern is responsible for many big projects such as the current scheme to remodel the track around Kings Cross. NR management is cutting the very bit of itself that should be delivering the new infrastructure.
We've heard that a lot of the jobs targeted for the scrapheap are safety assurance jobs. With the recent publication of Network Rail’s report into the Stonehaven derailment, this is clearly not the time to be diluting on safety.
Another rumour is that NR is targeting jobs that are ‘duplicated within the supply chain’. This could mean that the private rail contractors that do the majority of engineering and construction will do a lot of their own safety assurance without NR oversight.
This fits the overall pattern of ‘Build Back Better’ which seems to be code for pumping public money into private infrastructure contractors' hands while paring down NR's role.
Alongside the cuts, NR projects are being re-branded. All projects now have to be developed under the principles of the buzzword 'SPEED' (‘Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery’ – yuk!), the tagline of which is to deliver projects in half the time while slashing the cost. Slashed cost equates to slashed jobs. NR, ordered by the government, is sticking to the fiction that fewer staff will speed things up.
NR is also following government instructions to cut unnecessary red tape and remove complexity from planning processes. This turns Network Rail into a sped-up funding mechanism for awarding massive contracts to Balfour Beatty, BAM, Atkins and the like.
A recent 'Project SPEED' conference was opened by a pre-recorded speech by the Prime Minister. During the rest of the event, the big contractors were given almost equal airtime to NR big bods. There was a lot about how NR needs to empower the supply chain and recognise that contractors often know more than NR about how to deliver projects. How convenient that just when NR wants to cut loads of jobs, it discovers that – contrary to the evidence – private companies to a better job!
NR Capital Delivery is very under-resourced already. These jobs are not fat that needs trimming.
Rumour is that a lot of the jobs identified for redundancy are support level jobs: the lowest-paid people. As always, top brass will not choose to cull themselves. This is doubly bad because these are the people who do a lot of the work, and because these are the entry-level jobs that are invaluable for opening up rail careers to people ‘on the outside’. It’s a very bad decision during a jobs crisis.