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RSSB insists DOO is safe in transport safety inquiry

The director of system safety at the RSSB, Dr George Bearfield, has defended the organisation’s decision to rate driver-only operated (DOO) services as safe to the Transport Select Committee.

Louise Ellman MP, the head of the committee, repeatedly asked Bearfield if the fact that he had said that the operators will have to do a risk assessment of DOO meant it wasn’t completely safe.

But Bearfield said that the risk assessment was a “legal requirement” and “a responsibility that sits with the duty holder companies”.

“As far as we’re concerned, DOO is safe,” he added.

Plans to expand DOO on Southern services have been fiercely controversial, with rail union RMT leading strike action on the grounds that the new system could compromise passenger safety and lead to guards losing their jobs.

The union is set to hold further strikes over Christmas, while Aslef announced yesterday that its members have also voted in favour of strike action.

RMT has also leaked a memo sent to RSSB non-executive directors, including Charles Horton, the chief executive of GTR, which states that guard redundancies would deliver “the greatest economic benefit”.

In the hearing, Bearfield defended the RSSB’s neutrality, arguing it is independent and works “in a consensus-based manner” with all parties in its safety judgements.

He pointed out that the RSSB had challenged the rail industry in the past, for instance by publishing a report in 2010 making recommendations for Network Rail to improve under-reporting of contractor injuries.

MPs also asked him why the RSSB had said in a March 2015 report that DOO was “only safety neutral if a range of mitigations were implemented” before issuing a recommendation, rather than a report, this year describing it as safe.

“I don’t think the statements are inconsistent,” Bearfield replied.

In addition, the committee raised concerns about evidence from Simon French, the chief inspector of rail accidents, in which he said that an incident at Hayes and Harlington where a passenger’s hand was trapped in a train door was due to “corporate memory loss” about safety procedures.

Yet Gary Cooper, director of operations, engineering and major projects at the Rail Delivery Group, insisted that the rail industry did learn from safety recommendations as part of “business as usual”.

He added: “I’m satisfied that we learn from the incidents. I’m also being honest that there is still, in some small cases, some of the time, memory loss.”

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Mart   29/11/2016 at 13:04

The time has come with Southern trains to take control away from the operator and place in Network Rail control. Passengers are being paying their wages, the operator, AND Unions are not providing the service. Sack all RMT/ASLEF who go on strike, complete refunds for all season ticket holders, and close the line. Then reopen and only employ those with a no-strike clause in their employment. Charge RMT & ASLEF with multimillion fines to break them - the fines can pay the refunds to customers.

Rupert Le Bere   29/11/2016 at 20:41

Oh Mart, if only.............. There's such a hidden agenda in this dispute that it makes solving the Rubix cube blindfolded child's play in comparison. None of what you suggest would make one ounce of difference, even if it was possible. Southern is being used by the DfT as a means of achieving the Govt's political objective but without any them taking any of the flack. If it wasn;t so obvious, it would be clever but nontheless, the pawns in this game is, as ever, the poor passenger. Until the DfT extracts it's digit from where the sun don't shine and stops using Southern to do their dirty work, the better. The two sides in this dispute, ie the Government and the two Unions are so entrenched in their positions, hoping that poor old Southern will sort it out is totally wishful thinking.

Jerry Alderson   29/11/2016 at 20:42

In my view an organsiation will deliver “the greatest economic benefit” by using the people it has in the most efficient way to sustain and grow the business. (I don't believe there is an agenda to make anyone redundant, well, not until train drivers are no longer required.) I suggest that “the greatest economic benefit” will be achieved by using on-board staff to give the best possible customer service, dedicating their time to face-to-face contact with passengers all of the time. It pleases passengers and it maximises revenue - something that is in the interest of every rail employee. It's why I've always supported the switch to an OBS role, providing that all eventualities are covered.

Railroaded   30/11/2016 at 00:08

We have had DOO on London Underground, Chiltern Railways, WCML and ECML for many years without any major safety issue. This striking militant union moaners need to get with the program and realise that moder working patterns have to be implemented. They either accept change or find another job becomes the general public are getting seriously annoyed with them and we are paying their wages.

Peter Jerome   30/11/2016 at 13:17

ASLEF are not a militant union. There have been no ASLEF strikes for over 15 years. ASLEF negotiates successfully with every Train Operating Company in the UK except Southern/GTR. Train drivers are well paid and are not demanding more money. So given that record why would 95.6% of its Southern members vote for industrial action if they did not have a genuine case?

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