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Making the best of it all

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The news cycle never stops and it’s safe to say that a lot has happened since the last edition of RailStaff – much of it with implications for the Rail Industry.

October had not yet come to a close when news arrived of the collision in Salisbury which sadly left 15 passengers hurt and a driver with life-changing injuries. To date the RAIB’s investigation has revealed that wheel slide was likely to blame. Colin Wheeler discusses this further in his regular safety review.

In mid-November the Government released its Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) to mixed reviews. The plan outlines how major rail projects will be delivered in the near future and is an effort to accelerate improvements to the network by up to 10 years.

However, the scrapping of the Leeds leg of HS2 has not been well received and industry figures are concerned about the plan’s impact on the benefits of the high-speed project. George Chilcott comments further in his Young Rail Professionals update.

Many in the North of England felt betrayed by the plan. The Board of Transport for the North has expressed its disappointment and said the plans, as proposed, breach the commitments previously made on Northern Powerhouse Rail. The Government has promised that the upgrade of existing infrastructure will ‘level’ up Northern towns and cities more quickly than HS2. Either way, we won’t see the results for quite some time.

More recently, December has not been a good month for news about Covid-19. At the time of writing, Boris Johnson remains in office but his reluctance to swiftly condemn stories of a party at No 10 has impacted the Government’s authority to impose further Covid restrictions.

In the face of Omicron, this could be bad news indeed. One can only hope that everyone sticks to the use of face masks and gets vaccinated, and that the health of rail staff on the frontlines is not compromised.

That said, the threat of further lockdowns is also a concern. The financial health of the industry and those who work within it was severely affected by the economic squeeze that resulted last time around. Those impacted may find support from the Railway Benefit Fund (RBF) and I spoke to a member of their team to discuss the challenges this year brought.

But it’s Christmas, and we’re on the brink of a new year. Can we find some light in these stories?

We can take some comfort from the fact that more people were not injured in the Salisbury collision – due in part to what South Western Railway describes as the “impeccable” and “valiant” actions of the injured driver who put his passengers first.
The £96 billion investment promised by the IRP will go a long way to improving our ageing rail network and, if the Government is committed to levelling up, the updates to Northern infrastructure could well bring benefits and create jobs.

The reaction to violations of Covid rules at the governmental level, displays to us the importance with which the public has treated these measures so far and the sense of fairness that runs throughout the country.

Finally, the selfless actions of those who work for and support charities such as the RBF and Samaritans shows us the humanity that is often missed by the news reports.

RailStaff wishes you all a very happy and relaxing holiday. To those who will be working, stay safe.

Here’s to a positive and prosperous 2022.

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Image credit: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street