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Govia Thameslink take Aslef to court over refusal to drive 12-car trains

Govia Thameslink is applying for a High Court injunction against Aslef over the union’s refusal to drive new 12-car Gatwick Express trains without a guard.

Govia is planning to introduce 12-car trains on half its Gatwick Express services by June, but Aslef has said the trains are too large to oversee without additional staff, putting passenger safety at risk.

The Crawley News reported that on 9 April, the first 12-car train launched on the 5.30am service from London Victoria to Gatwick, but the driver refused to pick up passengers.

A spokesperson for Govia, which took over Southern, Gatwick Express and some Southeastern services last year, said: “We launch legal action very reluctantly, but we have been left with no choice because of the position adopted by the Aslef union.

“Drivers have safely operated the doors on Gatwick Express services for many years, so passengers will find their refusal to drive the new trains baffling.

“We will take any reasonable steps we can to defend the interests of our customers and maintain the Gatwick Express service with the new 12-car trains, which will increase capacity and reliability, and give a more comfortable travelling environment for passengers.”

The High Court is expected to hear the injunction application later this week.

The RMT is also balloting its members on whether to strike over the decision, with voting opening on 20 April and closing on 3 May.

An Aslef spokesperson said: “The agreements are in place to only have 10-car coaches as driver-only, and to stop any extension of driver-only operation.

“Longer trains without guards are not safe for passengers, especially with the rise in sexual assaults, and not safe for drivers. This is purely greed and a cost-cutting measure risking safety – no member of the public has ever demanded a train without guards.”

Recently, Aslef and RMT both went on strike in opposition to the planned Night Tube, but have now come to an agreement with TfL.

(Image c. Andrew Matthews)


James D   19/04/2016 at 11:29

I am a member of the public. Please drive the 12 car trains without additional staff! This provides benefits for passengers so please just get on with it!

JR   19/04/2016 at 11:32

I am a member of the public. Please drive the 12 car trains without additional staff!

Andy M   19/04/2016 at 11:41

I am a member of the public............ Just get on and do your jobs, and drive the trains. Surely there is a higher liklihood of assaults on a smaller overcrowded train, than a larger train. What is the real agenda here??

David   19/04/2016 at 11:41

The drivers probably have a case, but for negotiation. Meanwhile the first thing Govia needs to do is to overcome the endless short-formation of trains, gross overcrowding that results, and lack of time keeping due to petty incidents. 12 car trains to Gatwick are a waste when ordinary rush hour trains are so often reduced to 4 cars! Perhaps Govia should be taken to court by passengers!

MR   19/04/2016 at 11:55

I am a member of the public and I demand the 12-car Gatwick Express trains without guards. Please.

Jerry Alderson   19/04/2016 at 12:03

GTR (and its predecessor FCC) operates 12-car trains from King's Cross to Cambridge now. AGA operates 12-car trains from Liverpool Street to Cambridge now. The GTR ones are actually 3 x 4-car units with no walk through, whereas the Class 700s are continuous walkthrough and therefore better (safer) for passengers (albeit overlong at certain times of the day).

Ig   19/04/2016 at 12:37

I'm a female passenger and would like a guard on the train for safety reasons both mine and fellow ladies. A driver should concentrate purely on driving if they are distracted by doing a guards job that's a possible fatality.

J Mistry   19/04/2016 at 12:46

I am a member of the public and rail commuter. I agree with Aslef here, the pressure on the driver with a 12 car DOO is a step too far. This means that the driver has to watch an extra 41m of train length on small monitors (total length 246m) . For comparison a 9 car Class 390 Pendalino is 212m and that has guards. The safety of the passenger on and off the train is paramount and it will only be a matter of time until an accident causes a re-think.

Barry Knock   19/04/2016 at 13:19

The people that suffer from trains without Guards are the old, infirm, blind and disabled. Have Guards on all trains.

Manek Dubash   19/04/2016 at 13:36

I am a member of the public. ASLEF, please continue your action to protect the public and improve safety by fighting to keep guards on the train.

M.J.S   19/04/2016 at 13:58

All 12 car GNR class 365. And 321 trains used at peak times are despatched by a dispatcher on the platform ,who indicates to driver, either by white tennis bat or by pressing plunger to give driver RA signal. Aslef are like King Canute who thought he could stop the tide coming in....

Pauline H   19/04/2016 at 14:30

Station staff are trained and are adequately positioned to inform the driver to operate the train safely. If not, current practices would not be allowed. Only the passenger will suffer by this ridiculous action...once again!

Jak Jaye   19/04/2016 at 15:02

David is right 12 coaches to Gatwick is wasteful every day Southern run a rush hour train to Guildford with 4 coaches compared with 10 on the Vic-LBG circular crazy

Chris   19/04/2016 at 17:00

This is karma for Govia unleashing such grim rolling stock on the travelling public - the seating is some of the hardest around and yet Govia seem content to use it in both Standard and First Class - the latter seemingly being no different to Standard. As someone who pays to uses this service from time to time I want proper First Class, on-board revenue protection and a catering service - all the things that Gatwick Express used to have, please. At the very least I want an Electrostar with the comfy interior that was specified for the Stansted Express with well cushioned Standard seats and larger seats in First Class. Still Govia always seem determined to drive the on-board environment down to the lowest common denominator on their services.... ....even when that service is the first experience that many travellers will have of Britain's railway - a crying shame that should be a national embarrasment and an embarrasment for LGW - not exactly the Heathrow Express is it Gatwick?!!

Lutz   19/04/2016 at 19:37

Bankrupt the union and we will all celebrate.

John Grant   19/04/2016 at 20:31

As Jerry says, here in Cambridgeshire we've had 12-car driver-only trains for years. The real problem is that when they switch to one-man operation they get rid of the wrong man. The driver's job is easy to automate. The guard's job isn't, as Ig points out.

John Grant   19/04/2016 at 20:35

Of course, the unions won't like any reduction in staffing. How long was it after steam was phased out before they admitted you didn't need two people to drive a diesel?

Andrew Gwilt   19/04/2016 at 21:28

So in fairness the train drivers do want to control all train doors on a formed 8-car and 12-car Gatwick Express Class 387/2's trains without having the need to have door guards having to control the doors. Southern have train guards who control the doors on the Class 377's and Class 171's and Southeastern also have train guards that control the doors on the Class 375's, Class 376's, Class 465's and Class 466's at certain times or during peak hours.

Gabriel Oaks   20/04/2016 at 06:27

Thameslink already operates 12-car DOO. The current DOO GatEx trains are formed of 10 number 23m-long coaches (230m total). The new DOO GatEx trains will be formed of 12 number 20m-long coaches (240m total). There is no evidence that DOO trains are any less safe than trains with guards. The union have got this one seriously wrong.

Tom Hardy   20/04/2016 at 07:00

For the unions to refuse to drive these new twelve car trains presumably Govia are introducing them into service even though the ORR has declared them unsafe? Thought not...

Marie Brume   20/04/2016 at 11:39

Given the salaries they receive I would have expected train drivers to have been rather more professional than this.

Marie Brume   20/04/2016 at 17:44

"This is karma for Govia unleashing such grim rolling stock on the travelling public" Except it was the DfT who specified and ordered this rolling stock with very little say given to GTR. The TSGN franchise is managed /operated by GTR on behalf of the DfT and this includes a DfT requirement to expand the number of driver-only operated trains.

Andrew Gwilt   20/04/2016 at 20:16

Not exactly karma for Govia. They are not doing their best to improve passenger satisfaction and not co-operating on what passengers are facing so many delays and over-crowding on their current rolling stocks but the Class 700's are designed to cope with over-crowding with passengers during peak hours and rush hour journeys on the Thameslink line.

Dave   21/04/2016 at 10:45

I am a member of the public. These trains are fitted with the latest technology making them safe for the public and drivers. Stop holding the public to ransom, and just drive these super modern trains.

GW   21/04/2016 at 12:18

Oh dear. This is supposed to be a premium service. How can that be if it is DOO? Also these new trains are not more comfortable - they have the awful 387 seats. Awkwardness all round.

John Grant   21/04/2016 at 15:48

@GW: I think they still plan to have cabin staff, but they won't be responsible for any of the safety etc functions of a guard. They might be needed to ensure all passengers have paid the extra to shave 2 mins off the journey time, now that Gatwick's in the Oyster card area.

Lawrence Marshall   23/04/2016 at 22:47

Gabriel Oaks states that there's no evidence that DOO trais are any less safe than those with guards. He's wrong. Check out, for instance, the incident at West Wickham on 10th April 2015 when a woman was dragged under the train when trying to get off - and suffered "life changing" injuries. That would not have happened with a guard. See Also the incident where a woman trying to board a DOO train was dragged - but fortunately, when she got free of the doors, fell onto the platform only. Also the incident at Lenzie where the guard saw a woman dashing for a train fall down between the train and the platform - a driver would likely not have seen this as it happened in less than a second.

Indowa   26/04/2016 at 11:56

This is not a bad idea. I work on the platforms at CLJ so we have lots of 12 carriage formations. But it is necessary to have Platform staffs for the safety of the customers getting on and off the trains. I don't think Guards do anything much that the platform staff cannot do. However the safety of passengers on the train. Or when things go south on the train then conductors are much needed. The driver cannot do all the work by themselves. So in that case they must protect the jobs of Guards....and the safety of the passengers. The 12 carriage is okay...but we must have a guard or its operational suicide

SWB   08/05/2016 at 20:19

I'm not usually one to side with a union, but I think there is merit to their position. Since the service in question involves many newcomers to London and the UK (I was such a newcomer years ago), many riders will inevitably have questions. The addition of a guard provides someone that may provide answers to at least some of those questions. Add in the additional safety of an extra pair of eyes and ears, as well as the ability to assist in a medical emergency and I'd say there's a good argument for a guard.

TAK   11/05/2016 at 10:59

Unless they are Govia shareholders or managers on performance-related pay, it's really hard to understand any passengers arguing to do away with conductors. Yes, there are existing DOO services (althought most are 8-coach or lengths or much smaller), but even Govia cannot argue they are safer than trains with conductors. The best they can say is they are not less safe, which itself is highly debateable. One thing for sure is that no savings from DOO will end up in passengers' pockets anyway.

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