NETWORK Rail has hit out after the RMT union linked the Tebay tragedy to 'privatisation and fragmentation.' 

The RMT union marked the nineteenth anniversary of the disaster which took the lives of four of its members. 

The workers died and another five were injured after an out-of-control 16-tonne steel wagon collided with them. 

Mark Connolly, the boss of rail maintenance company MAC Machinery Services and crane operator Roy Kennett were found guilty of manslaughter.

Connolly was also prosecuted for breaches of health and safety law and sentenced to nine years imprisonment. Kennett received two years. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "We remember these tragedies not only as a mark of respect for our comrades but in order to campaign for proper safety standards, to ensure this never happens again.

"Privatisation and fragmentation is inherently less safe than a joined-up publicly owned railway.

"However, despite these tragedies and others, we are having to resist further attacks on safety with 50 per cent planned reductions in scheduled maintenance tasks, hundreds of job losses and more unsocial shifts.

READ MORE: Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the Tebay tragedy

"The cost-cutting agenda posed by Network Rail's plans under so-called modernising maintenance represents a threat to safety standards, our members' wellbeing and to the travelling public."

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail's director of safety and engineering, responded: "Such a loss of life shocked the entire rail industry and led to significant safety changes for those playing a vital role maintaining and improving our nation’s railway.

‘We never forget events like Tebay and the lessons learned continue to inform safety standards and changes to working practices today. Safety is at the heart of our ‘Modernising Maintenance’ proposals which improve the safety of our railway for its workforce and its users as modern technology, such as on-train high-definition cameras and remote monitors, will reduce the need for our people to be walking in the dangerous trackside environment as frequently.

“It is regretful that the RMT has linked the tragedy to our proposals to drag the way we do maintenance into the 21st century, which we feel is insensitive to the families and hugely unhelpful in our commitment to resolve our ongoing industrial dispute and put an end to unnecessarily damaging and disruptive strike action.”