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“Halliburton Report Vindicates Union ”

“Halliburton Report Vindicates Union ”

The Union was commenting on The Land Transport safety Authority (LTSA) commissioned Halliburton KBR report which is an independent review of parts of New Zealand’s rail infrastructure in the context of the transfer of its maintenance to Transfield by the rail operator, Tranz Rail. The review arose as a result of concerns about the out-sourcing being expressed by Government, Parliament and the Rail & Maritime Transport Union. The Union was particularly concerned about staff cuts, washouts, heat buckles with continuous welded rail, deferred maintenance, multi operator environment and the general under investment in rail asset maintenance.

“The findings of the Halliburton KBR stage 2 report into Tranz Rail infrastructure strongly vindicates all of the unions concerns” stated Wayne Butson, General Secretary of the Rail & Maritime Transport Union. “The Halliburton stage two report has clearly identified and specifically commented upon a number of areas the union has been concerned about for some time as serious issues.”

Wayne Butson went on to say “When Transfield successfully obtained the three year contract to take over infrastructure maintenance, 128 highly skilled infrastructure staff were made redundant. At the time of outsourcing there was a huge amount of deferred maintenance and risk was managed by the imposition of speed restrictions which further stressed the depleted workforce. The report clearly states that whilst the rail network is fit for purpose, as defined in the report, there is clear evidence from code non-compliances that the system is operating close to its practical limit and is evidence of a pressured workforce. Further, it states that the management and maintenance of joint elimination and continuous welded rail has been poor. This further vindicates the Unions claims”.

“The Union has been very concerned that outsourcing and sale of rail functions has occurred when the current legislative framework governing rail is woefully inadequate. The Wilson inquiry into Tranz Rail Ltd worker safety, the findings of which were published in August 2000, made statements and recommendations as to the inadequacies in the rail legislative framework. It is important to note that these gaps still exist and the legislation that was woefully inadequate at controlling one company (Tranz Rail Ltd) is now expected to govern multiple operators”, said Butson.

He went on to say “The long promised Rail Bill is still being drafted by the Ministry of Transport and with the current log jam of legislation in Parliament we hold little hope of a speedy passage. We were recently told that if no new legislation was drafted at any time during this current parliament they still wouldn’t be able to deal with all the legislation currently awaiting passage. The situation is appalling”.

“Another area of serious concern to the Union is the fact that the safety audits of Tranz Rail Ltd that are used by LTSA to determine the ongoing approval basis of the rail safety license is conducted by a company chosen and paid for by Tranz Rail Ltd which has no rail infrastructure, engineering or operational expertise. We raised this issue in the Wilson Inquiry and, without questioning the integrity of those involved, we believed this raises serious doubt as to the independence of the audit process. Therefore, it is very gratifying to see this issue independently raised in the report with a recommendation for change”, said Mr Butson.

“Also of concern is the fact that with the transition to a multi operator environment all of the rules, codes and standards for operation by these various operators are all determined by and vested with Tranz Rail Ltd. Tranz Rail Ltd has by default become the regulator of the network and this is quite inappropriate as it is a role which should be vested in a statutory agency just like the roading, aviation and maritime industries. It is gratifying therefore to see that the report states that in a multi operator environment such as now exists on the rail network, that Tranz Rail is not independent enough to set the codes and standards for all operators to comply with”, said Wayne Butson.

He further stated “that it is time for the Government to stop mucking around and return the rail infrastructure asset to state ownership and control. The Union’s Take Back The Track campaign has been running now for 18 months and it is 12 months since we staged the stunt outside parliament buildings of constructing NZ’s newest rail branch The Parliamentary Spur.

Mr Butson said that “if Government acted now to return the rail infrastructure asset to public ownership it would provide a level playing field for all rail operators with them all paying user charges for the use of the tracks. This would be a similar arrangement with what currently exists for roads with the trucking industry and would also go someway to levelling the playing field between road and rail by removing the current subsidy advantage that the trucking industry enjoys from private motorists whereas Tranz Rail Ltd pays the full cost of providing the rail network.”

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