Just for a minute, forget the victims and the outcry against contractors, and let me answer the accusations.
The new maintenance contracts focus on safety and include penalties for poor track performance: fail to perform and risk losing the business.
The railways have never been busier. There has been a massive increase in passenger and freight traffic and the safety record is improving. We kill 3400 people a year on the roads compared with fewer than 20 a year on the railways.
This hurts. I am in contact with all the main rail contractors and their key staff. They have performed miracles in trying circumstances. The Potters Bar tragedy may turn out to be human error, but the contractors are desperately upset about any accident. They work long and often unsociable hours with a high level of professionalism. The criticism they are getting is shameful and demotivating.
It could be sabotage. Many have a vested interest in the failure of privatisation and have the necessary specialist knowledge. This is a horrible thought, but is it so implausible? Have the doubting media actually asked whether similar acts have been identified in recent months, as my information says they have?
We are dealing with an old railway that is being worked harder and harder and trackworkers who are similarly stretched. It is time to stop blaming the system and stop expecting a perfect safety record – it will never be achieved. Stop hammering the men, women and companies that are working hard to make a difference, and succeeding. Read the statistics and forget the spin.