Posted 19th May 2011 | 23 Comments

McNulty report set to trigger clash with rail unions

THE McNulty report on railway 'value for money' seems set to receive a robust response from rail unions later today.

The unions have already been voicing their resentment at suggestions that railway staff are overpaid. There is also concern about the possibility of allowing private sector train operators to maintain some parts of the network.

Sir Roy McNulty has maintained that £1 billion a year could be saved. That's the equivalent of 20 per cent of the present public subsidy to railways in Britain.

He is expected to say that some sections of the railway are overstaffed, with his particular targets likely to be ticket offices and the continuing presence of conductors on some commuter routes.

Network Rail is already devolving responsibility for maintenance to individual routes, which are becoming semi-autonomous business units. But the discussions now taking place envisage a return to some vertical reintegration, with certain train operators assuming responsibility for maintenance on their networks.

If the predictions are on track, then Sir Roy will also be recommending a reduction in the size of the railway workforce to cut the wages bill as part of his annual savings of £1 billion annually, which he believes is achievable by 2018.

One of his benchmarks will be the comparative costs of other railways in Europe, which are said to be 30 per cent lower.

But unions say the higher costs in Britain are often caused by the complex structure of railway privatisation here, which is not mirrored in other countries, and are bitterly critical of pay levels for senior executives in the franchise-owning groups.

They are also opposing any return of maintenance to the private sector, pointing out that Railtrack was a failure.

It's just over 48 years since Doctor (later Lord) Beeching published his controversial report 'The Reshaping of British Railways'. This was followed by a major programme of closures, which is not thought to be part of the McNulty agenda.

Even so, the rail unions are remaining gloomy about the implications of Sir Roy's analysis, due to be published this morning.

The general secretary of ASLEF, Keith Norman, said: "It would take a special person to remain in moan mode while passenger figures increase, punctuality improves, journey times decrease and delays drastically reduce. But I think the government might have found just the man."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Wilf Garnett, London

    14 Years ago our pay and conditions for some of us were restructured, we actually lost average earnings at the start and for many years, as our basic pay was raised, but allowances, unsocial hours, weekend supplements and enhancements withdrawn. This process was done by the company to save money, but over the years our basic has risen through pay rises, we get better sick pay and all our pay is pensionable, it was not the staff who wanted this restructuring but the Directors and now they claim we are getting paid to much, when we actually lost a lot of money to start with. McNutty says our pay is too much, but we can't afford to buy or rent a house in London and have to travel a long way every day.The staff on the railway are dedicated and love their jobs, many a time an employee goes beyond the call of duty to help someone, if anything I believe railway staff should be paid a lot more

  • Jake Jones, Hadfield, England

    Its all gonna be over in a few months.We win,McBumpty loses and our stations still staffed. No one but your bunch of cronies like you,and other people are more important than you.You're already rich,and you take money from these poor old people for the hell of it? Ridiculous!

  • dave, south west, uk

    having read all these comments I would like to add that one of the biggest costs to a franchise is the parts for the trains, i work in maintenance and to start with a 2+8 hst set costs £1.000.000 per year to lease then there are the costs for replacement components from railpart is usually 10fold the price out side. heres an example a £9.99 light fitting for engine room of a hst power car from screwfix, but we are not allowed to buy this, we have to buy the exact same component from rail part and i mean exact component for £144. and this applies to everything from nuts and bolts to wheelsets. its easy to blame the staff costs for high fares but staff are the most valuable asset to a TOC . I dont know what the answer is but what i do know is i work nights weekends and work hard for my money and i think we are not over paid.

  • traineconomist, Edinburgh, UK

    It would be appreciated if rail enthusiasts could contribute to this debate by having the courtesy to spell Mr McNulty's name correctly and write in the same reasoned tones as his report is couched in.

    Arguments based on envy on this string appear to have no factual basis. Most contentions can be analysed as a desire for almost unlimited subsidy to satisfy the private travel preferences of the writers.

    It is clearly unsustainable for much of the network to require a subsidy of 31p/mile and thus to ignore the economic costs for this form of transport and pretend that we must stick to some historic level of staffing or efficiency. That implies massive tax transfers from the many taxpayers who do not use rail to the small number who do.

  • Wilf, Somewhere in the South, England

    Lets think about this, no platform staff, no guards, no ticket office staff. This will leave our railways open accidents by the hundreds, after all we get at least one fatality a week in southern England alone with all these staff present. Running 12 car trains which are full and standing due to delays and have over 2000 people on them. .... interesting.

    Reduction in track maintence and safety, more accidents like Clapham coming up then...

    Um, how about the poor passengers who will end up on a third world railway, they will be attacked and mugged and worse in some places, remember the murder in South London back in the BR days on a non-corridor train, CCTV does not help, it only captures the moment and the wrong doer if the CCTV works.

    Oh yes and one other thing, remember the rail bombing in Madrid, caused by terrorists.... this could be England easily with an open network such as ours, anyone can get on ANY train and without staff keeping an eye on things, well, another 200 people could be killed in one go.

    The price of a Guards Salary is about £25k, Platform, upto £20 K and the same with ticket office staff. If this price we put on our passengers saftey ? Maybe this can be explained to the passengers family when they don`t come home as McNulty wanted to save some money.

    Its not about profit, its all about providing a SERVICE. Profit if for factories which make widgets etc..

    Ignore Bob Crow and his posturing, listen to the STAFF who KNOW how it all works and KNOW what will happen if the non driver grades are all removed.

  • Nick, Essex, England

    The Mcnutty report highlights the biggest problem of the railways today, too many people who know absolutely nothing about railways making decisions that will ineffect make the current situation worse not better. There is an old saying that if you keep hacking at the roots of a tree, eventually the tree will fall.

    When the railways were first privatised it was said " that safety was paramount " every issue of this report kicks safety into touch. Take off the blinkers, take a bloody good look around and talk to people on the shop floor, it is no good saying that this countrys railways cost 30% more to run than those abroad, and then blame the workforce. We all know that these private companies are syphoning taxayers money to pay shareholders dividends, and to pay the salaries of an overloaded management regime.

    This report highlights the fact that privatisation of the railways does not work, RE-NATIONALISE and invest before we end up with a railway model like that of Greece, where hardly anybody pays to travel because thier stations are unmanned.

  • Bob, London

    At First Capital Connect, I've heard they're getting 12 car trains, going through the busiest routes in London, and ALL of them will be DOO!

  • rab lauder, manchester, uk

    Some inter city trains are nine coaches long. Does mcnulty expect a driver to take full responsibility for the safe operations and day to day operational duties that a guard does as well as drive the train. passengers numbers are up because people feel same on trains. By binning the role of the guard the whole safety culture could be eradicated over night.

  • Bob, London, Britain

    McNulty is quoted as saying that train drivers are overpaid, and that an average truck driver earns 25k, therefore train drivers should earn the same.
    What garbage. I've been an LGV driver, I've also been a London Bus Driver, and have been (and still am) a train driver. The two jobs do not compare. No disrespect to truck or bus drivers, but it took me 4 weeks to become a truck driver, 6 weeks to become a bus driver, and over a year to become a train driver. But the train driver training did not stop. Even after ten years I stll have to get the Railway Rulebook out and read it, I still have to get my sectional appendix route maps out and read them, I still have to read the WON each week, the PON every 8 weeks, the late notices, the general notices, the Spad notices, the traction notices, the low adhesion notices, yellow perils, updates, rule changes, rules, simulators, and if i **** up, off the track and possible sacking hanging over my head.
    The LGV/PCV guys do their test, and that's it! A train driver is constantly bombarded with crap he has to keep reading because Notwork rail keep changing the track layouts every 5 minutes. A train driver, like a London black cab driver, has as much volume of knowledge in his head as a Doctor!
    And no, I'm not exagerating. people, like ignorant pratts like Mcnulty, Boris Johnson, and other know-nothings who write in the the rail mags, haven't got a clue as to the hard graft a train driver has to put in. I did more studying to pass my driver's course than I ever did on my A levels or at uni.

    As someone said previously, train driving is a lifestyle not a job, (a bit like the Armed Forces, which I have also been a member of). McNulty and his ilk swan around on hundreds of thousands of my taxpayer money, living the life of riley.


  • David, Manchester, England

    Safety is going to be compromised as a reduction in staffing is not going to work.there will be an increase In assaults. Passengers will feel vulnerable having no one to help. Doo services are not the answer. Drivers should concentrate driving trains and leave the other operational staff in the front line to give good customer service, deal with evacuations etc and comply with disability regulations. Cost cutting is a no no

  • Tony Fern, Manchester

    The McNulty report want's rid of Guards, Platform Staff and Ticket Office Staff.
    The "defult position should be driver only".
    So years of safety culture built up by the industry protecting passengers wiped out in a single blow of the axe.
    McNulty fails to understand finance and was kicked out of the job of Chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority and replaced by..... John Armitt, a railway man!
    He has once again failed to do his homework with this report and look how profits which go straight to shareholders could so easily save the railways far more than his draconian cuts will ever achieve and wouldn't compramise safety

  • Geoff R, Westhoughton, United Kingdom

    Rail satffing needs to be more efficient'. So staff wages are to blame for high fares are they ? I work on the railways and i earn just short of 18K per year before tax and NI contributions for a 35 hour week. Cut staff especially Guards and platform staff then what will you have ? firstly there will be no one to help disabled passengers to complete their journey. Safety will fly out of the window with early morning commuter trains unable to leave the platform because guards have been withdrawn and angry commuters wanting to board the train will not allow the doors to close because they are packing themselves in. Platform staff and train guards would not allow this to happen. As for drivers they consider themselves to be railway royalty so dont expect much from them.

  • S Ranger, Hove, East Sussex

    So we are overpaid and don't work long enough hours, did McNulty come out on the tracks with any conductors - I don't think so. Would he do our job with the enthusiasm that many of us have - I don't think so. Who's going to load the wheelchairs on our trains at out of the way stations - our driver of course. Which bit of woodwork did Cameron get him to crawl out of, I can't believe it's taken him months to create this report. The growth in rail travel is very strong, what we need is more not less. Everyone in the rail industry should fight this tooth and nail.

  • Steve Abbott, Blackpool, England

    So train drivers are overpaid ?? Really ? What mcnumpty fails to realise is that it's not just a job it's a lifestyle as every train company realises. Maybe he should try a job where you miss out on lots of family functions/activities. Maybe he should ve missed out on seeing his growing up for days on end due to his shifts. Maybe he should try getting up at two or three in the morning on a cold wet winters day to do a nine or ten hour shift having just come off a day off and having had four hours sleep because your body clock is out of sync again.
    Train drivers get paid what they do because of all the sacrifices they have to make that the regular nine to five workers take for granted. Personally I think drivers at some TOCs arnt payed nearly enough and hope they're going to hold out for a decent pay rise this year. Pay freeze or pay cuts??? Dont make me laugh. Good luck with that one Mcnumpty. I for one will be shouting for a national rail strike if they start that nonsense and then we ll see what happens to all the promised savings when the country grinds to a halt and the economy starts haemorrhaging money.

  • S. Gillespie, London, England

    what price for safety? for years i`ve watched staff levels and morale go down while the union sit back and do nothing unless you work on the underground.
    Train Drivers paid £40-80.000 with overtime while the rest of staff are struggling on £17-25.000. Some ATOL paying train drivers additional payments to work rest days and supplying taxi to get them home, all other staff get nothing can this be right and fair? it`s about time we all stand together to defend and save our jobs and be reconised, instead of atol employing agency staff who do not receive sick pay, pensions. i came out on strike against DOO in the past and i will do it again. All stations to be manned and all trains to have a guard.

  • Mick Jacques, Crewe, England

    Blaming the remuneration that staff receive for expensive rail fares is an absolute travesty. Why do successive governmemnts fail to ever publish a profits league table of all the privatised companies that are making an absolute killing at the tax payers expense with a bottom line grand total for all to see? If these companies were not making serious money, you can believe they all would have handed the keys back to these franchises a long time ago, and there wouldnt be anyone bidding to run the next tranche of franchises coming up for grabs either. Instead of refranchising these companies back out to so called entrepeneurs and bus companies, why doesnt the government grow a set, admit railway privatisation was an expensive mistake. Repeal the railways act and take back in house all the passenger train operators and reinvest what is currently being siphoned out of the railways year in year out by these franchise holders to their share holders. I am in no doubt these so called profits could be put to better use within the industry and reduce the burden on the tax payer at the same trime. Staff bashing isnt the answer. They didnt create the problem, the politicians did!

  • Warren Sutherland, Perth

    Sam Green: "The railways that cost the most to run are in rural areas.Mostly Wales and Scotland.I cannot see the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government being dictated to by London over line closures in their countries!So who will take the brunt of line closures? Yes you have guest(sic) correctly England!"

    You are joking aren't you? Have you seen the railways in Scotland? They are just inter-city hubs. They could not be slimmed down any more than they already are. I wish we had even a 20th os the wonderful railway communications that are available down south. I'd be surprised if 20 percent of Scots have been on a train.

  • David, Ashford, UK

    What a great idea reduce staff by doing away with conductors and some ticket office staff, does he really think the general public are that honest and will still buy tickets, or will the railway lose even more money through revenue. the only way is to get rid of the share holders.

  • Geoff R, Westhoughton, United Kingdom

    I hope he remembers the £24 million Richard Branson pays himself every year out of the West Coast franchise. Target stuff like that first McNulty.

  • Paul Reed, New Brighton, England

    Mr McNulty along with Doctor Beeching both come from different working back grounds. McNulty Aviation & Beeching ICI. Like Beeching he knows nothing about how our indrustry operates. Of course its more expensive than Europe,why? Because they have not been privitised have they. There's no share holders involved meaning the money goes back into the industry. That why its cheaper and more econimical. Yes the railway has issues that need to be addressed. But that should be by people that know what they are talking about from the industry not McNutly getting paid millions. The answer MR NULTY is simple RE-NATIONALISE the indusdry

  • Sam Green, Bournemouth, UK

    It is the old trick coming to the fore!- blame the staff ! Blame over-staffing and out dated working practices! Exactly the same arguments Beeching used! It is not greedy Train companies then?Like Great Western handing their franchises back early so they can get out of paying the agreed returns to the Government?It is not the wrong sort of privatisation then? Staff overpaid? Is McNulty refering to Train Drivers? Well that is the cost of privatisation.The Train companies want to keep their drivers and stop them going to other companies then they have to pay the price!That is market forces! The Conservatives unleashed this monster and now they can`t control it! Who is at fault? Everybody except the Conservatives! In the overall scheme of things getting rid of a few Ticket offices ,their staff and a few Guards will barely scratch the surface of costs! What about service to the customer?It doesnt exist on todays` modern railway!WE know whats coming !The only way McNaulty can save vasts amounts is line closures.The railways that cost the most to run are in rural areas.Mostly Wales and Scotland.I cannot see the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government being dictated to by London over line closures in their countries!So who will take the brunt of line closures? Yes you have guest correctly England!

  • John Taylor, London

    Railway staffing simply needs to become more efficient. Rail fares are becoming simply unaffordable for the majority of the public. This is just the latest report to highlight the inefficiency of railway staffing in various areas.

  • James Pritchard, Southampton, UK

    Whereas I remain undecided about a lot of this, and am not in favour of seeing staffing levels cut, I do think that it is a bit hypocritical of the Unions to be "bitterly critical of pay levels for senior executives in the franchise-owning groups" when it is widely reported that the likes of Bob Crow 'earn' a fortune themselves. See (for example)