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Southern train conductors to go on strike over driver-only trains

Train conductors on Southern routes have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a series of strikes, starting from next week, in protest at plans to extend driver-only operations (DOO).

Trade union RMT, who received a 78% mandate for the strike, warned that the proposals to extend DOO, where drivers operate doors on trains, and replace conductors with on-board supervisors will threaten passenger safety and mean that staff will be forced to either take the supervisor role or be made redundant.

RMT have therefore called three 24-hour strikes. The first will run from 11am on 26 April and the next two will run from the same time on 10 May and 12 May.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said: “The anger at the threat to RMT members’ jobs, their role and the safety of Southern services is reflected in this massive vote for action.”

Cash called Southern “the most hated rail franchise in Britain”, adding: “These trains are desperately over-crowded and the conductors are the eyes and ears preventing a major tragedy on the platforms and carriages. RMT's demands could not be clearer and the union remains available for meaningful talks. "

Of the 393 ballot papers RMT sent out, 321 were returned, with 306 (78%) voting in favour of a strike and 320 (81%) in favour of non-strike industrial action.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), who own Southern, said that drivers already operate the doors on 1,800 of their 3,000 daily services.

They added that there would be no compulsory redundancies and they were only being forced to offer new on-board supervisor contracts because of RMT’s refusal to negotiate.

Dyan Crowther, GTR’s CEO, said: “This strike is completely unnecessary. No staff will lose their jobs or see a reduction in their salary, whilst passengers will benefit from having more visible staff on trains.

“Now that strike times and dates have been announced, we are working to finalise contingency plans for our services on strike days, but must warn passengers that disruption is likely to be significant. Finally, rather than making passengers suffer through a strike, we urge the RMT to return to the negotiating table and discuss the changes we are seeking to make.”

GTR are also taking Aslef to court over their drivers’ refusal to drive the new 12-car Gatwick Express trains without additional staff.

(Image c. Dominic Lipinski from PA Wire)


Jimbo   20/04/2016 at 17:42

When you have DOO Thameslink trains and non-DOO Southern trains using similar stock on the same lines, it is difficult to be sympathetic to this argument. DOO has been going on long enough that whether it is safe or not should be provable with accident and crime stats. So RMT, instead of just waving the safety card everytime, how about actually backing up your statements with some facts ?

Neil Palmer   20/04/2016 at 18:37

It seems taking the rail unions to court is the only way to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Even when they receive guarantees of no loss of pay and no job losses they still object. Pig headed and obstinate Luddites. The very least that should be accepted is doors being opened by the driver to reduce delay/station dwell time (which is sorely needed to increase capacity on the network) and have "guards" (or whatever you want to call them, maybe "Vice President in charge of vehicle aperture closing and hiding away in the rear driving compartment") responsible for closing the doors. And for those rail staff voting in favour of strike action, keep in mind there are hundreds of people who would gladly take your job, and for far less than the overly generous pay you are currently receiving.

Andrew Gwilt   20/04/2016 at 20:12

That's why train drivers want to control the doors and not the door guards to open and close the doors just like other trains that the train driver has 2 buttons to press to open the doors and to close the doors before the driver applies the acceleration for the train to accelerate.

Jerry Alderson   24/04/2016 at 13:26

Yesterday I was on a London Midland train from Northampton. I counted 12 seconds once the train had been stationary at the platform before the doors were unloicked so that I could board. 12 seconds! With driver-controlled operation (I use Great Nothern most of the time) it would have been one, perhaps two seconds. I alighted at my destination at Five Ways and watched as the guard had to get back in the train and close the door behind him. More lost time, whereas the driver could have stayed at his/her seat to check that it was safe. Unecessarily additional dwell time at the platform means longer journeys for passengers - the extra seconds add up - meaning that the train is less competitive than the car. DCO needs to be implemented correctly but if it is done properly then it is definitely a good thing for passengers.

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