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Northern offers reassurance to RMT over DCO

The RMT union has received confirmation from Northern that the company is willing to guarantee the union a second staff member on board its trains.

The union is now seeking a meeting with the company, run by Arriva Rail North, to come with a ‘comprehensive’ agreement regarding train dispatch and staff safety competencies.

RMT had given Northern a deadline of 26 January to clarify its position on whether or not it plans to retain guards on its trains or risk dispute as part of the union’s ongoing concerns surrounding driver-controlled operation (DCO).

The ITT for the recent Northern Franchise called for the new franchisee from 2020 to “operate a minimum of 50% of all passenger train mileage under the driver’s full operational control”. But it added “this requirement does not oblige the franchisee to reduce levels of on-train staffing”.

RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “RMT welcomes the opportunity to engage in positive talks with Arriva Northern over the best method for train dispatch and staff safety competencies and will be seeking a meeting with the company at the earliest opportunity.

“Ultimately our aim will be to receive a guarantee that there will be a second safety critical member of staff on board their trains.”

Recent history suggests that negotiations between the parties will come to a peaceful conclusion as the pair recently agreed a revised pay deal for Northern’s staff.

A spokesperson for Northern said: "We are in the very early stages of an ambitious programme to modernise rail travel for our customers which will deliver a safe, secure and accessible Northern network. Over the next few years customers will benefit from new and refurbished trains, station improvements, more seats and extra services.

"These proposals have yet to be fully developed but we are committed to discussing how to bring them to life with colleagues, their representatives, customers and communities. We are pleased that we are continuing our talks with our RMT colleagues about the future.”

However, Rail North's website states: “There will be a gradual introduction of DCO on parts of the Northern franchise, with the driver being responsible for all safety aspects of the train, including operating the train doors.

“This will free up the second member of staff on board to focus on customer service – including by helping those with mobility impairments or other disabilities –  selling and checking tickets and providing a sense of security.

“Trains will only operate without a second member of staff on board where it can be demonstrated that passengers will still be able to purchase a ticket at the station or on-board the train, that they will still have access to appropriate information about the service and that they will feel no less safe and secure.”

(Image c. Alvey and Towers)

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J Webster   27/01/2017 at 13:08

Can't see that last paragraph being acceptable to RMT.

Lutz   27/01/2017 at 22:22

Wait a minute; all those new trains were funded on the basis that there would be elimination of the second man, and substantive reduction in costs. Where is TfN going to get the money from especially the next round of cuts are almost upon us?

Jerry Alderson   31/01/2017 at 20:23

I think Lutz is thinking of MerseyRail, whereby MerseyTravel needs to cut staff costs to make the sums for the new trains add up. Northern Rail has not announced any plans to reduce staffing. On the two occasions that I have spoken to Alex Hynes in the last nine months the story has been an overall increase in staffing. I don't live in thre North so I'm not a regular user of Northern's trains. However, I hope that the introduction of DCO will see passenger benefits maximised, especially resulting in reduced dwell times and therefore faster end-to-end journey times; along with better on-board customer service. if done properly, DCO is a really good thing for passengers.

Jerry Alderson   02/02/2017 at 16:46

Breaking news: ASLEF has reached agreement with GTR for DCO ansd OBS on Southern. Needs to be ratified by drivers. ASLET seemed to have moved back from suggestions that DCO is a 1980s' BR concept for a declining small railway and has no future. Let's hope that the agreement can become a template that can be adopted on Northern and MerseryRail, plus others, to avoid any drivers' dispute there.

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