Latest Rail News

19.09.14

Liverpool council joins campaign opposing driver-only operation

Liverpool City Council is objecting to government requirements for the new Northern Rail and TransPennine Express franchises that require bidders to explain how they would introduce driver-only operation.

A cross-party motion was adopted that will see the authority’s chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald, write to all Merseyside MPs, Merseytravel and the Local Enterprise Partnership to encourage them to oppose the removal of on-board conductors.

The DfT says it is not asking for on-board staff to be removed, but for the job of opening and closing doors to be done by the driver instead.

The council is also contacting the DfT and rail minister Claire Perry MP to try to ensure on-board conductors are retained within the service specification.

Councillors were concerned about the effects of driver-only operation on travellers, pointing out that Passenger Focus research indicates that passengers’ perception of safety is greatly enhanced by the presence of conductors. The motion goes on to say: “Conductors provide an invaluable service to passengers providing:

  • Revenue protection duties, ensuring all passengers have a valid ticket for travel and selling tickets to those without them. This is vital to deal with high levels of ticketless travel currently occurring on the Northern network.
  • A vital customer service role including, travel information in relation to connections etc. for onward journeys; and very importantly -assist passengers with mobility issues to board and alight trains comfortably and safely.
  • Dealing with issues of anti-social behaviour and reacting to safety and operational incidents.”

RMT, the rail union, has been actively campaigning against the proposals and welcomed the motion passed by the council. The union has distributed thousands of postcards to passengers urging them to register their opposition to the plans, and they have also been urging MPs to sign early-day-motion 174, which opposes the proposals. Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, said: “We warmly welcome the policy adopted by Liverpool City Council, which echoes the grave concerns that passengers across the north of England have shown when confronted with the stark reality of the government’s assault on rail services, safety and jobs.

“Campaigning from coast to coast and across the Pennines, our members are reporting a groundswell of support from the public, MPs and councillors, and only an all-out and co-ordinated fight can stop the savage assault on rail in the North.”

The removal of on-board conductors is an issue many authorities in the north are looking into. Cllr Richard Lewis of Leeds City Council told RTM that it is “a matter of concern” that is being investigated.

A DfT spokesman said: “Nothing is more important than the safety and security of passengers on our trains.

“We are not asking for the removal of on-board staff as part of the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, but we are considering whether drivers could take on the job of opening and closing the doors, as happens on many other parts of the railway. By giving responsibility to the driver, the other staff on the train will be freed up to provide a better face-to-face service for passengers.”

(Image: c. Alvey and Towers)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Comments

Pedr Jarvis   19/09/2014 at 12:46

In my youth, in some parts of Liverpool,we never let any lady go unescorted, even to the bus stop. The policemen went round in pairs until police dogs were introduced - one man and his dog was effective because the villains knew the policeman would not kill them, but they were not sure about the dog. If Liverpool has, in the interim, undergone a wholesale conversion to peace and light, I shall be delighted. Until then, you need a guard (I use the old word) on the trains. The Department for Transoprt surely has the peace that passeth all understanding

Chris B   19/09/2014 at 13:12

Pedr sums up my thoughts exactly and let's not forget the James Street accident and RAIB report. Guards remain vital, but also platform staff to avoid guards being placed in impossible situations when the public are not behaving properly.

Sean   19/09/2014 at 13:43

"We are not asking for the removal of on-board staff as part of the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises, but we are considering whether drivers could take on the job of opening and closing the doors, as happens on many other parts of the railway. By giving responsibility to the driver, the other staff on the train will be freed up to provide a better face-to-face service for passengers.” Isn't this better? Sean

Pedr Jarvis   19/09/2014 at 21:13

Sean, you know as well as I that, if the guard has not a specific duty, the next thing is that he is withdrawn altogether. We must remember what a platform can be like after a football match, especially if the home side has lost. The guard can also keep the door shut to prevent non-paying passengers from escaping.

Neil Palmer   20/09/2014 at 06:10

Pedr Jarvis No one, including DfT, is suggesting the train will have ONLY a driver. The guard (or whatever you want to refer to him/her as) WILL have a specific duty. Because some stations are unstaffed &/or ungated and a Guard/Conductor is essential for revenue protection. The problem with having the Guard ALSO open & close doors is that on busy trains this is sometimes delayed if they are in the middle of a ticketing transaction. This unnecessarily increases station dwell times, resulting in late trains and decreasing line capacity. It is absolutely ludicrous that the Driver Only Capable Class 319's moving north are having to be be converted to allow the Guard to open & close the doors. Also, in the occasional case that a driver is available but the guard isn't and a new one couldn't be located in time, would you rather have a train cancelled inconveniencing hundreds of passengers, or would you rather the train still run - with the driver able to open & close doors?

Voice Of Reason   20/09/2014 at 10:30

Sorry am I missing something? We need to keep conductors on the trains to check tickets because on the trains they are CURRENTLY working on too many people don't have tickets? Surely that demonstrates they are not an effective deterrent to fare evasion? Gated system, penalty fares and travelling Revenue Protection - paid for by reducing OPEX through move to DOO and reducing cancellations for lack of a guard? LU did this and fare evasion c.3% how does that compare to Northern/TPE?

Nwman   21/09/2014 at 09:38

There will be a member of staff on the train, however the safety critical element of the role will have been removed which will enable the operators to cut the wages they pay to the on board staff or even outsource the role to companies like G4s.Once the safety critical element is removed they then sit outside any safety management system which makes it easier for operators to use third party suppliers who will tender for the work with price being the deciding factor which will seriously effect the pay and conditions of the staff. However they will still have to deal with conflict when selling tickets, during delays and late at night and weekends when passengers have been drinking.

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