23 January 2017
RMT Press Office:
New figures reveal at least six times more Southern services are travelling without a second member of staff than promised by Southern.
Information provided to RMT by passengers and rail workers has revealed that at least six times as many rail services on Southern where Driver Only Trains have been introduced have been travelling without an On Board Service Supervisor (OBS) than promised by Southern.
The union has released the damning facts on the day that guards strike again in the fight for rail safety and the retention of a second safety critical on Southern services.
In previous correspondence to MPs Southern said they anticipated that 0.06% of trains would run without an OBS, the equivalent to one service, every two days.
But information provided for the five days alone (9, 12, 14, 15 18 January) has found that fifteen services travelled without an OBS.
The figures come amidst increasing concern that disabled passengers in particular are being disadvantaged by Driver Only Trains with reports of disabled passengers being stranded at stations and Southern’s train maps being changed so they no longer specify the stations where passengers needing assistance can turn up and go.
The figures also came in the same week that the Government said they only “partially” support the Transport Select Committees recommendation that they conduct an impact assessment of Driver Only Trains on accessibility.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“These are only the figures that have been reported to us and we believe the instances of trains running without a second person are far more widespread and will rapidly and substantially increase.”
“Not only does the new OBS role deprive passengers of key safety protections that were provided by conductors, it also means there will be regular instances of the Driver being on their own and passengers being deprived of the guarantee of assistance and protection they once had.”
“The reality is that the government’s policy of driver only trains not only worsen service and safety it also reduces accessibly. Ministers refusal this week to agree to the Select Committee’s call for an impact assessment on Driver Only Trains shows that the government have now abandoned their policy of a railway that is accessible for all.”
Notes to editors
Transport Select Committee recommendation
We are concerned that no official impact assessment has been made of the potential effects of DOO on disabled people’s access to the railway. We recommend the DfT and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) jointly commission research into the potential effects of DOO on the “turn up and go” accessibility of the railway to disabled people who require assistance getting on and off trains. The Department should draw on this research to issue guidance to train operating companies on the measures that should be taken to mitigate potential detrimental effects on disabled people’s access. It should ensure that actions are taken to guarantee that disabled rail passengers receive the support to which they are entitled. The research should be conducted, and guidance published, before summer 2017. (Paragraph 56)
Government response published last week
The Government partially agrees with this recommendation. The Government is determined for everyone to have the same access to public transport and all train companies must comply with their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and their Disabled People’s Protection Policy (DPPP) (which is a Passenger Operator Licence Condition and must be approved by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR)) in respect of all aspects of their operation, including where Driver Only Operation is in effect. Impact assessments are carried out when DfT implements a policy or regulatory change and we need to quantify how that change will impact on different users or groups. The Department does not have a policy, implemented through franchise agreements, to require train crew staffing levels to be reduced to one person. While some recent franchises have included requirements about driver-only operation, such that full operational responsibility for the operation of the train rests with the driver, the Department has never required a reduction in the level of on-train staffing. On the contrary, franchise specifications have emphasised the importance of ensuring that on-train and/or platform staff are visible to passengers and available to meet their needs. We expect a franchisee to manage its operations safely and legally – and this includes making provision under the Equality Act 2010 and under its passenger operator’s licence for the carriage of disabled passengers, if considering making changes to staffing arrangements. ORR has responsibility for approving and monitoring compliance with operators’ DPPPs. These set out the help and assistance that an operator will provide. ORR has developed a package of research in this area, taking place from September 2016 to the second quarter of 2017. One piece of planned research is a mystery shop to check compliance with the obligation to assist passengers who turn up without booking. The details of the research have yet to be defined but it is likely this will provide a snapshot of industry performance and is likely to include some routes with unstaffed stations and/or driver only operated trains. In addition, ORR is currently investigating the robustness of some of the processes operators rely on in this context, including help points Alongside the work which ORR is planning, RDG are making improvements to the Passenger Assist system, which will deliver a new Availability & Reservation Service, effectively ‘a one stop shop’ solution for TOCs and passengers, by 2018. Furthermore, DfT is currently working with Transport Focus to establish a research project to identify the challenges that disabled passengers face in making rail journeys. This will seek to identify the barriers that may inhibit someone from making as many Government Response to the Committee’s Sixth Report of Session 2016–17 7 journeys as they would like or prevent them from making rail journeys at all. This work will provide us with a clearer picture of the experience of disabled travellers when making both pre-booked and spontaneous rail journeys. We will report on the progress of these projects in mid-2017.