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ORR told to draw up national safety framework for DOO train dispatch

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, has asked the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to set out a national safety framework for train dispatch to further improve the way that trains are dispatched across the UK, in the hope of ending disputes over driver-only operated (DOO) trains once and for all.

Grayling has written to the rail regulator in the wake of the ORR’s report yesterday which said Southern’s proposals to use DOO on its trains can be safe if suitable equipment, staff and procedures are put in place.

He added that he welcome the regulator’s ongoing work on train dispatch and requested that the chief inspector of railways, Ian Prosser, develops a set of principles for “continuous improvement which all train operators must follow where DOO is in operation or is being introduced”.

The transport secretary has again called for Aslef and the RMT to end their strike action over Southern’s plans, with the unions claiming that they are unsafe and would potentially leave guard jobs at risk.

“Aslef should call off its strike. There are no grounds for the strike to go ahead. The independent rail regulator has confirmed after a further review that driver-controlled trains are safe,” Grayling said in a statement.

“I want our railways to be the safest in the world. I have asked if it is possible for the ORR to set out a national framework for further improvements to the way in which trains are dispatched. I want and hope the unions will be fully involved in this.”

Following the publication of the report yesterday Grayling wrote to the unions offering to meet to discuss an end to the strikes, assuring them that jobs and wages will not be affected by the plans.

The RMT, which represents the on-board supervisors on Southern trains, said its general secretary, Mick Cash, would meet the transport secretary at his earliest convenience. His Aslef counterpart Mick Whelan also said he was willing to meet again to discuss drivers’ concerns, but warned that the offer to meet alone would not lead to next week’s strike being called off.

“Despite what Southern railways is disingenuously claiming, the report from the Office of Rail and Road does not give driver-only operation a clean bill of health,” Whelan said. “It doesn’t say it is safe, merely that it can be safe.”

Charles Horton, the chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), which currently operates the Southern franchise, called the ORR’s review “full and comprehensive”, saying that the unions must now acknowledge they have “no credible argument” that DOO is unsafe.

The ORR sent out a statement in response to Grayling's request, saying: "The onus is on all train operators to continously improve safety. We made a number of recommendations in our report to support this and will be carrying out further work on train dispatch.

"This will include the Secretary of State’s request to develop a set of principles for continuous improvement which all train operators must follow where Driver Only Operation is in operation or is being introduced. In developing these principles we will, as with our work to date, welcome the involvement of train operators and the unions.”

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John Grant   06/01/2017 at 13:15

According to the RSSB website and there are several "train-platform interface" injuries each year, but I can't find any analysis of how many of those are with guard-controlled vs driver-controlled doors, compared to the total number of passengers getting on and off each type of train. Does anyone have access to those figures?

Brian Imrie   06/01/2017 at 15:21

The rail industry uses a recording system for all accidents,incidents, near misses. Workforce or public. Anywhere in the country, area specifically by station or across the whole country The data input can be by train operator or Network Rail, by requesting for type of accident, a report can be produced that would give the information required.

Jerry Alderson   06/01/2017 at 18:48

RTM said:"asked the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) to set out a national safety framework for train dispatch to further improve the way that trains are dispatched across the UK." Correction: The ORR does not regulate rail across the UK. It only regulates across Britain. Perhaps RTM ought to learn the difference between Britain and the UK. (For those who do not know, the UK includes Northern Ireland, but Britain does not. The railway is still 100% nationalised in NI and there is no ORR involvement.) I have said for a long time that DCO is an issue that should have been settled 25 years ago. The current Southern dispute has been waiting to happen for ages. A few weeks ago ASLEF were against the *principle* of DCO. Now they seem to have softened, only challenging the *implentation* of it. If that is real movement then I am very pleased for the sake of passengers. Once that the Southern industrual action is resolved and unions have fully bought into it then the same *agreed* implementation should be rolled out across Britain. It's important that there is no further industrial action elsewhere. In that respect, I'm pleased that Chris Grayling has taken the initiative.

Jak Jaye   07/01/2017 at 09:23

Beggars belief that months into a DOO despute the less than useless Grayling has said there should be a national framework bit late in the day Chris, the framework should be in place NOW! as for GTR how much longer is this cowboy operator going to be allowed to ruin a railway?

Jon   07/01/2017 at 13:16

Why wasn't the rail regulator asked to do this before they put into the contracts for running the franchises that there must be a certain number of doo introduced the only people to blame for this fiasco are whoever stipulated doo to start with which i dont believe were the tocs or the unions.If they are happy to still have a person on board (which the govt and tocs seem happy with) why not call them a guard,let them operate the doors and dispatch and leave the driver to drive

Jerry Alderson   07/01/2017 at 19:15

Re: Jon's question about the plans for DCO i.e. drivers to fully control trains and let the seond person focus on serving passengers - something that is *really good news* for passengers, by the way, providing that passenger improvements are delivered, such as faster journeys and staff not 'hiding' in the rear cab the entire journey except when at stations. Two days before the GTR franchise began in Septmber 2014, RTM had an article in which it was mentinoned that GTR woudl be introducing DCO (and also moving station staff from behind glass windows to standing next to customers). This was clearly signed up in advance - whether it was a DfT or GTR initiative I don't know, but clearly the DfT 100% approved of it. Moreover, the DfT has contractually obliged Nothern to operate 50% of trains as DCO once the new trains are in service. I completely agree that it was foolish to contract a TOC to do so without a national framework being in place, even if the unions had not agreed to it. Drivers being solely in charge is commonplace in Europe. I spent three years in Vienna where everything is done that way (apart from certain longer-distance and cross-border trains). Denmark pioneered it in the 1970s, I believe, and Germany has taken it to a fine art. When I was last in Paris I took photos of French trains with external cameras.

Puzzled Old Railwayman   08/01/2017 at 14:54

As I understand it, under current Law the Safety Directorate of the ORR has no responsibility for setting safety frameworks - and hasn't since the ROGS regulations were passed in 2006 (which transposed the EU Safety Directive into Law). The Safety Directorate of the ORR are now simply responsible for supervising and enforcing compliance with railway legislation, and taking enforcement action. Responsibility for developing the safety framework in question - given the multiple parties involved - would possibly better sit with the RSSB, on behalf of infrastructure managers (e.g. Network Rail) and transport undertakings (e.g. Southern) who they represent. I am therefore puzzled why there has been no mention in all this of the Common Safety Method on Risk Evaluation and Assessment, which is Law in all EU Countries, and requires a company such as Southern to obtain an independent assessment by an accredited company of their proposals to manage the safety risks arising from the changes they are intending to make. Have not been able to find out whether Southern have done this - but if they haven't, implementing DOO without complying with the independent assessment requirement would be illegal! Don't have a lot of confidence that our legislators have the remotest grasp of the legislation or structure of the industry they purport to be responsible for!

Vaughan Cole   09/01/2017 at 15:06

In response to Jerry, my passport, refers to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island. The powers of ORR will be determined by Law which should be read with due care and attention.

Jerry Alderson   10/01/2017 at 19:31

@Vaughan Cole - ORR has no involvement in Northern Ireland. Its railway has always been independently run.

Puzzled Old Railwayman   11/01/2017 at 16:34

In response to Jerry Alderson and Vaughan Cole, the Safety Authority in Northern Ireland is the Department for the Development of Northern Ireland..who subcontract their work on Railway Safety to the Safety Directorate of the ORR in London!

Jerry Alderson   13/01/2017 at 15:53

Many thanks to Puzzled Old Railwayman for the clarification that ORR acts as a supplier of services in Northern Ireland. I was correct in saying that it is not the regulator. When I spoke to Ian Prosser, having challenged him on his use of UK rather that Britain, he agreed that they only regulated in Britain. I hadn't considered the outsourcing possibility. This is a bit like Network Rail only operating in Britain but selling consultancy around the world. I might get shot for saying this, but I had wondered if it NI Railways outsourced to IE as it already operates cross-border trains with them.

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