Latest Rail News


Southern train drivers vote to strike over DOO trains

The train drivers’ union Aslef has announced that Southern train drivers have voted overwhelmingly to go on strike in a move likely to cause disruption to passengers over the Christmas period.

Members of Aslef working for Southern voted on whether to launch industrial action over the operator’s plans to introduce driver-only operated (DOO) trains. DOO trains are already the subject of a separate long-running dispute between Southern and the RMT, with union members arguing that they would threaten passenger safety and conductor jobs.

The drivers voted for walkouts by an overwhelming margin of 87%. Aslef’s executive will now meet to discuss the outcome of the ballot before deciding how best to proceed.

Aslef’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, said the company wanted to impose changes upon drivers rather than reach a compromise with the union.

“Our trade dispute with the company is that there should be no introduction and/or extension of new DOO routes on Southern without the agreement of Aslef,” he added.

“We have genuinely sought to reach a compromise with Southern. We have always been prepared to talk to the company and we have always been of the view that it should be possible to do a deal, but it takes two to tango and the company has not been prepared to negotiate.

Whelan said that because Southern have “dug in their heels” the company has in effect forced the union to ballot its members over strike action.

If Aslef members working for Southern do launch industrial action, the union will have to give at least seven days’ notice before initiating strikes.

Charles Horton, the chief executive of Southern's parent company Govia Thameslink, criticised the vote, saying: "We believe this ballot was wholly unnecessary and unjustified in the first place and we're disappointed that the union is now contemplating industrial action.

"It's perfectly safe for the driver to have sole responsibility for the operation of a modern train and that's how a third of the trains up and down the country - with the full agreement and support of Aslef - already operate today."

RMT members have staged a series of strikes on Southern in recent months with further three-day walkouts due to start on 6 December, 22 December and 31 December, leading to accusations of the union ‘cancelling Christmas’ over the DOO dispute.


Lutz   28/11/2016 at 12:03

Kind sack and prosecute these people; show them who is boss.

Ron   28/11/2016 at 14:49

We've have DOO for 30years and theres never been issues. Safety argument doesn't hold water. Southern passengers have suffered enough, striking over Christmas just goes to show that rmt doesn't give a toss about passengers. They need to grow up and accept you don't need a guard to close the door, people aren't idiots they go on the london underground on busy trains and no guards to be seen on those!

Martin T   28/11/2016 at 15:56

What the hell is in it for the drivers? They will be giving up money and getting nothing in return, unless they thnk GTR will offer them more money. At best the drivers would just maintain the status quo. Pain without any gain seems a really stupid thing for the drivers to do. Can anyone explain the drivers' contracts re: DOO? Surely they would be obliged to drive these trains. It seems like a complete breach of contract. Of course, the railways need drivers more than newspapers needed typesetters in the 1980s. It doesn't help that it takes a year to train a driver. I wonder if GTR has any chance of legal action to invalidate the strike action.

Gabriel Oaks   29/11/2016 at 12:28

A disappointing decision by the train drivers that is probably going to lead with a showdown with (ultimately) the DfT who in turn are unlikely to back down (they don't have to). I can see drivers being dismissed and offered new contracts. In addition ASLEF might be sued by the operator with potential of having to pay significant compensation when they cannot demonstrate DOO is unsafe.

GW   29/11/2016 at 16:05

The comments show a complete lack of understanding of the issues. This is about SAFETY. Drivers generally do not like DOO (although in this case it is DCO). People have been sent to jail when things go wrong, both drivers and guards/conductors have been prosecuted. If the correct tools for the job are provided then some of the arguments disappear. This means being able to clearly see when the doors are safe to close and closed. Misted up cameras or cameras that do not provide this information is not the correct way to do it.

Issac Case   29/11/2016 at 17:20

DOO trains have been around for some thirty years with the RSSB & ORR considering them safe; past incidents statics do not show otherwise. To date neither the RMT or ASLEF has been able to produce any hard facts that demonstrate DOO is unsafe or that staff have been prosecuted for anything other than their own neglect in undertaking their duties safely. If DOO equipment fails then train drivers should follow set procedures to enable safe dispatch; these procedures might affect train-running performance but not safety.

Jerry Alderson   29/11/2016 at 20:28

I agree with GW in that drivers are at greater risk of being blamed for an accident. At the monent, other that in a person-to-person communication breakdown, the driver can lay 100% of the blame on the other person (guard, conductor, dispatcher). When the driver is in sole operation of the train the risk of being blamed moves to them. However, I believe that risk is overcome by, as Isaac Case suggests, "If DOO equipment fails then train drivers should follow set procedures to enable safe dispatch; these procedures might affect train-running performance but not safety." Providing that the driver is not disciplined for failing to take longer to depart because they have to make sure it is safe to depart, then I don't believe the driver will bear any greater risks. Of course, GTR risks train performance issues by staff going overboard. I've heard stories of guards going to extremes to show that they are ensuring it is safe to depart.

Gabriel Oaks   30/11/2016 at 07:34

In terms of 'degraded dispatch' Issac Case is correct that there are set procedures in place and drivers follow these. Earlier in the year the ill-informed press made great play of the 'wrong type of sun' at Lewisham station. In reality for a period of under half-an-hour drivers could not see the image on the DOO monitors because of reflected sunlight on the screens. They followed these set dispatch procedures until platform dispatch staff were sent to assist. However, by this time there was considerable knock-on effect to the service (a performance not safety issue). Ultimately this dispute is being battled out on Southern's management contract in advance of next year's move of SWT's franchise to a DfT management contract where it is inevitable that DOO will be a requirement. Ultimately the unions are hiding their fear of loss of membership under the coat-tails of safety.

Jerry Alderson   30/11/2016 at 16:21

I agree with Gabriel Oaks that SWT will see drivers taking over full operation of trains on some routes. That will also be the case with Northern (contractual obligaiton for 50% of services as DCO), and perhaps even on Greater Anglia rural and inter-city routes given that it will have a 100% new train fleet, all with external cameras, with no slam door inter-city stock in use for the first time. However, I really dislike using the term DOO to refer to this because DOO has a bad reputation since many people consider DOO to be one-person operation, which no-one is proposing (other than in exceptional circumstances when the rostered OBS and a replacement was not available). I would rather than people refer to DCO or DOO+1.

Add your comment


Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

Most Read

'the sleepers' blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >