Latest Rail News

19.09.17

TfL reveals ambitious plans to modernise Overground services

TfL has this week announced new plans to review and modernise its customer service on London Overground by utilising technology that best meets the modern needs of passengers.

Under the proposals, it is hoped that the number of directly employed staff will rise, and TfL’s reliance on agency workers will go down.

Transport bosses were also quick to promise that the plans will not compromise passenger safety, adding that all stations will remain fully staffed at all times.

Overground operator Arriva Rail London (ARL) will also start meeting with staff and trade unions to discuss a range of initiatives, including ideas to make staff more visible and available at stations, provide assistance and information where it is most needed and modernise the process of selling tickets to reflect how customers are paying for their travel.

ARL will also be sitting down with London TravelWatch and the DfT to consult and refine the ambitious programme of reforms.

On top of that, the number of staff employed in permanent mobile revenue protection and security across London Overground is planned to be trebled by early 2019.

“The London Overground network has improved enormously over the last decade,” said Jonathan Fox, TfL’s director of London Rail.

“We want to continue that trend and make sure that we are continuing to provide a first-class service that meets the needs of today’s customers.

“Over the years we have seen significant changes to how customers use stations and pay for travel and this exercise will enable ARL to consider how best to respond to these and make sure the Overground retains its position as one of the best train services in the UK.”

And Will Rogers, ARL’s managing director, added that as the London Overground network has grown, “our staff have been instrumental in adapting to customer trends, new technology and ways of working that benefit customers, communities and employees”.

“There is no doubt that TfL’s vision for the Overground is both strong and ambitious, and so we will work closely with them to achieve a joint goal of meeting the ever-changing needs of our customers and communities,” he said.

“Our programme aims to create a stronger London Overground, with a secure and skilled future for our employees.”

RMT ‘deeply concerned’ about proposals

However, not everyone reacted positively to the news. Union RMT, who are embroiled in strike action against Southern and whose members have already this year walked out on LU services, said it was “deeply concerned” about the proposals.

“RMT is deeply concerned about the proposals which in our view could see the elimination of ticket offices across London Overground,” stated Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT.

“Our experience in the past shows that, despite promises to the contrary, the closure of ticket offices leads to the wholesale de-staffing of stations with serious consequences for safety and security.”

Cash added that the plans had a “striking similarity” to the Fit For The Future model rolled out on London Underground stations, which the union claim lead to a “wholesale axing of ticket offices and a net loss in safety critical jobs”, and which sparked a long running union industrial and political campaign that eventually reversed a ‎sizable chunk of those cuts. 

“RMT is also aware that these proposals are being mapped out against the background of massive central government cuts to the TfL budget and those cuts could shape the eventual package,” he concluded.

“The mayor ‎must give us cast iron assurances that will not happen and we are calling for urgent, top level discussions around the proposals released by TfL today.”

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Comments

Jimbo   19/09/2017 at 12:04

The use of "modernise" in the title seems odd for a service that is only 10 years old, but they are talking about the modernisation of working practises which date from when the services were part of National Rail and BR before that. Of course, the RMT will fight this because they will fight anything that could reduce their power. Whilst passengers and staff may have concerns about some of the measures, the RMT fights it all indiscrimately - the good stuff and the bad stuff - because they only care about themselves, not the passengers or staff.

Dave   19/09/2017 at 14:44

Yet again London & the South East, how strange!

J, Leicester   19/09/2017 at 15:01

The Overground is already amongst London's best routes - what exactly needs improving besides increased frequency and reliability? The ticketing one in particular is an odd one, since the zone system functions perfectly fine and the overwhelming majority of passengers now pay by contactless / Oyster. I sense they'll be looking to boost phone payments, which is a pretty pointless venture that few will take up on convenience grounds. Still, continued investment in the Overground is a good thing - even if it's existence effectively confirms that Watford is now a London suburb! ;)

Paul   19/09/2017 at 17:57

This isn't an investment, it looks like a cut back with a lot of spin attached. Controversially for many, i do agree that ticket offices have become somewhat anachronistic in the era of oyster and contactless payment. I imagine RMT members rather like working quiet ticket offices where they can spend much of the day twiddling their thumbs, and are rather less keen on being put out on the station floor.

Neil Palmer   19/09/2017 at 18:14

Seems the only time RMT members are keen to be seen out mingling with the long suffering passengers is when they're carrying picket signs. Sure wish we could vote Mick Cash off the island.

Steve B Collins   19/09/2017 at 19:20

Sadly I think Jimbo has hit the nail on the head when he wrote: "the RMT will fight this because they will fight anything that could reduce their power. Whilst passengers and staff may have concerns about some of the measures, the RMT fights it all indiscriminately - the good stuff and the bad stuff." From the outside the mage the RMT gives is to make as much noise as possible to show its members that it does something. Other unions work behind the scenes. Neil Palmer wrote: "Seems the only time RMT members are keen to be seen out mingling with the long suffering passengers is when they're carrying picket signs." Yes, sadly that rings bells in terms of conductors 'hiding' in the rear cab for most of the journey doing nothing for passengers on board the train.

Andrew Gwilt   20/09/2017 at 01:04

Not forgetting London Overground who are ordering the new Class 710 Aventra units to replace the Class 172's, Class 315's and Class 317's used on newly electrified Gospel Oak-Barking, Liverpool St-Chingford, Enfield Town and Cheshunt and Romford-Upminster lines from next year. Plus the Class 710's will also operate on Euston-Watford DC service and to transfer the Class 378's to East London Line services. Plus with the extension to Barking Riverside. That will also allow the Class 710's to operate between Gospel Oak-Barking Riverside. Once the extension is completed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Overground https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_710

Andrew JG   20/09/2017 at 11:12

Could London Overground could possibly take over the West Ealing-Greenford branch line and to use some of their Class 172's to cascaded from the GOBLIN line and replace the GWR Class 165/166 DMU units to other routes if London Overground does take over the Greenford line next year or when Elizabeth Line fully opens in 2019.

Mark Hare   25/09/2017 at 15:21

@Dave - Yes, London and the South East. TfL is Transport for London, rather self-explanatory; I don't believe they operate services elsewhere. What a surprise, another opportunity for Mick Cash to get his name in the papers with a quote. I note 'it is hoped that the number of directly employed staff will rise, and TfL’s reliance on agency workers will go down.' However 'the number of staff employed in permanent mobile revenue protection and security across London Overground is planned to be trebled by early 2019.' Either ARL currently employ a hell of a lot of agency staff currently, or the numbers here don't quite add up.

Pdeaves   29/09/2017 at 12:31

TOC: "We need to cut staff..." RMT: "No. We object". TOC: "We need to triple staff numbers..." RMT: "No. We object" I wish the union would make one policy and stick with it!

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