Rail Lay-Offs Raise Serious Safety Concerns
Redundancies of one-third of Tranz Rail's staff at their Lower Hutt workshop raises serious concerns about the safety of the rail network, Green Party Transport spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.
Ms Kedgley called on the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) to investigate concerns raised by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union that Tranz Rail's did not have enough staff to fix routine track maintenance issues, and that their plans to slash maintenance crews could jeopardise rail safety and result in a rail disaster.
Tranz Rail announced yesterday that staff in Lower Hutt would be cut back from 180 to about 120 as a result of cutting back the locomotive fleet and contracting out maintenance services. Nine workers will be laid off in Dunedin, with more redundancies expected there.
"The recent derailments in the South Island raises serious questions about whether there is adequate track maintenance at present, and whether there are sufficient numbers of trained staff employed to keep our rail network safe, she said.
Ms Kedgley said that Tranz Rail's shedding of staff is the inevitable consequence of the long-standing policy transport bias towards roads and against rail in New Zealand.
"Tranz Rail is cutting corners to answer to its shareholders, and in the process it may be risking public safety.
The logical solution to the problem is for Government to negotiate to take back ownership of the rail track."
"If the rail network were transferred into government ownership, track safety could be given high priority, and private operators could be left to run train services, as is the case with roads," she said.