November 16, 2012
More outages will follow cuts to KiwiRail maintenance
The use of outside contractors will grow and outages like that experienced in Auckland this week will increase as a result of cuts to KiwiRail maintenance capacity, the rail union warns.
Earlier this year KiwiRail announced plans to cut $200 million and 158 jobs from its Infrastructure and Engineering division. Its own planning documents admit disruption will grow and performance will drop as result.
RMTU Acting General Secretary Todd Valster said that the increased use of contractors would see more outages like that experienced by Auckland commuters this week, and put safety at risk for rail operators and the public.
“It was a huge mistake to contract out jobs and the wealth of experience in KiwiRail’s Infrastructure and Engineering division,” he said.
“Customers and staff will pay the true cost of these cuts, as contractors increasingly carry out essential maintenance work, because KiwiRail is cutting its own capacity back too much.”
“The 2013-2015 Business Plan, initially leaked and then released, noted that the “asset will decline, disruption will grow, asset failure risk will grow” as a result of its cut backs.”
“Many will be familiar with 2001 UK film The Navigators about the privatisation of rail maintenance and the safety chaos that ensued.”
“New Zealanders would be wise the get the film out from their local video store and remind themselves of both the risks and false economies of contracted-out maintenance work, and support rail workers’ concerns about this happening in New Zealand,” Todd Valster said.
“At best the customer service levels in FY13 will be around but no better than FY12 levels in some line segments. The network will experience falling performance and carry a higher disruption-risk profile. This risk will be managed to limit the impact as much as is practicable on premier corridors.
In FY14 – FY15 the asset will decline, disruption will grow, asset failure risk will grow and the legacy bow wave will get bigger. Even when expenditure gets back to current levels, it will take time to pull back from the decline and regain an improving performance trend to underpin increasing service reliability expectations.”