Latest Rail News

24.11.17

RSSB annual report: Membership increases despite DOO dispute

The Rail Safety and Standards Board has released its annual report, showing an increase in membership and greater usage of its developed tools.

Over the past year, six organisations have become members of the RSSB, taking the total from 69 to 75, while its Carbon Tool also has an increased user base.

The news comes despite criticism from the RMT union, which claims the safety organisation is incorrect to say the controversial driver-only operated (DOO) system is safe.

In its report, RSSB bosses said they were pleased with the direction the board had taken, with chief executive Mark Phillips speaking about measures which were implemented from the ORR’s 2016 review.

Phillips said 2016-17 had seen the beginning of a “transformation programme to make the RSSB fit for the future”, and applauded the increased contact the organisation has had with its members.

However, the RMT union, which orchestrated strikes across five franchises over DOO safety concerns earlier this month, says the RSSB cannot be independent because of its close relationship with companies in the industry.

The organisation, which spent £10.6m on research and development last year, is jointly owned by TOCs, Network Rail, and rolling stock and infrastructure owners.

Referring to comments made by George Bearfield, RSSB director of system safety and health, Mick Cash, the RMT’s general secretary, said it was not right that the organisations who stood to profit from the introduction of DOO services should fund reports into its safety.

“He who pays the piper calls the tune,” Cash said, in reference to the RSSB’s assertion that DOO trains can be run safely.

Writing for the safety board in October, Bearfield said: “Unfortunately, the current disputes on the safety of driver dispatch have become emotive and confused.

“In this article I set out a clear evaluation as to why driver dispatch of trains is unquestionably safe according to all criteria and what this tells us about how we need to address safety issues in the future, as more automated systems are brought into use.”

Discussions around driver only trains have caused disputes across the country, however, a landmark deal between the ASLEF union and Southern Rail this month finally ended the organisations’ long running clash.

Representatives agreed a deal which will see drives receive increased pay while DOO operation will be limited to exceptional circumstances when a second safety-trained person cannot be placed on-board.

Top image: Rui Vieira PA Archive

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