05 September 2002 | Liam O'Brien
Railtrack is set to beef up the inspection of contractors in a move that marks a significant tightening of its outsourcing of track maintenance work.
The infrastructure provider, still under investigation for the Potters Bar rail accident in May, is extending a new inspection programme for contractors, called Proof, from 10 September.
It will apply to all 65 areas of service and product provision that are regarded as vital to passenger safety. At the moment, it only covers track safety staff acting as lookouts for work gangs.
Over a six-month period, the scheme, which will check the qualifications and competence of contractors to do the work, will replace the existing arrangement where all third-party providers audit their own suppliers.
This has led to the duplication of audits, bureaucracy and claims that some auditing was not up to scratch.
Gary Plant, director of rail at audit specialists Achilles, the company that will administer Proof for Railtrack, said: "Railtrack is taking a more proactive role in ensuring that the industry is meeting its obligations. It wants to know that everyone is meeting their obligations."
A railway industry insider said: "Railtrack has taken the strategic decision to continue with contracting out and partnering. It's designed to validate credentials and audit third-party suppliers more intensively."