The national union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) has today announced it will go into dispute with West Midlands Trains over the introduction of Driver Only Operation (DOO).
RMT confirmed that is has declared a dispute with West Midlands Trains – operator of the West Midlands rail franchise between London, the Midlands, and the North West of England under the London Northwestern and West Midlands Railway brands – over plans to ‘bulldoze through’ DOO and ‘rip apart’ the safety critical role of the Guard at the platform/train interface.
The RMT announced that preparations for a ballot of Guards for strike action and action short action are now underway.
What is Driver Only Operation?
DOO is the operation of a train by the Driver alone, without a second member of safety critical staff (Guard / Conductor / Train Manager). Meaning the Driver operates the train doors and dispatch procedure.
On the British railway network, approximately 30% of all passenger trains are operated as DOO, mainly in the South East. The remaining 70% employ a second member of safety critical staff.
Various disputes have taken place over the years relating to DOO, more notably the long running disputes with Northern and Southern.
What did the officials say?
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary said
“RMT will never compromise on the issues of passenger safety and accessibility, the company know that and they should pull back from their threat to bulldoze through Driver Only Operation and their attack on the safety critical role of the guard at the platform/train interface.
“RMT will not allow the drive for profit to override the core issue of safe and accessible services for all on West Midlands Trains and we stand firm on that very basic principle.
“We are in dispute, we are preparing to ballot and we remain available for talks but it is down to the company to come back to the table with safe and sensible proposals that recognise the anger that their cash-driven plans have sparked amongst our members who deliver the service day in and day out.”
The rail safety regulator, the RSSB state
“We have 30 years of data which we have analysed. We have found that the driver performing the task does not increase the risk to passengers at all.
We have published several research projects over the last 15 years on various aspects of DOO on passenger trains. None of these pieces of work has identified any increased risk from dispatching a train without a guard being present – providing the correct procedures have been followed. In fact, the removal of any possible miscommunication, which could exist between driver and guard could, potentially, deliver some safety benefits. If we had found evidence to suggest that DOO was not safe when done correctly, we would say so.”