Simon French hit out after a report was released into an incident in north London where a team of track workers narrowly avoided being hit by a passing train.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch report revealed the workers were placing a trolley on a line they mistakenly thought had been blocked.
The report found ineffective safety practices and no clear ‘Person in Charge’
French said: “The number and type of near misses in recent years is hugely disappointing given the efforts made to address track worker safety during that time.
“Over the same period, Network Rail has introduced a number of changes to procedures, and several new initiatives, to try to reduce the risk. One of these re-introduced the concept that there should be a ‘person in charge’.
“This was intended to make an identifiable and capable person responsible for all aspects of the planning and delivery of safe work, for each job.
“It is disappointing that our investigation found that the way in which this concept had been implemented lacked clarity, and the result of this was confusion on site.
“As well as this organisational issue, we found that staff were disorientated, and did not know which line was which.
“This could have been readily solved if they had had proper diagrams, and if clear signs had been provided at the point where they entered the railway.
“RAIB has raised this issue before – it’s time that the industry thought long and hard about the way it provides critical safety information to its staff and contractors.
“I am concerned that, despite much effort and many initiatives, we are not seeing the hoped-for improvements in safety for track workers.
“Despite all the efforts that the industry has made, this kind of alarming incident is still happening.
“There needs to be complete clarity about who is in charge, where the work is to take place, and which lines are open to traffic.
“I hope that the railway industry will do what’s necessary to ensure that track workers properly understand the track safety processes and the roles of everybody involved in their implementation.”