Community Safety Support from RMT

Our Ref: HSR/2/11
Head Office Circular: NP/428/21
22nd November 2021
To: The Secretary

Dear Colleague,


Your Wessex Regional Council carried the following resolution:

Each year RMT Guards, Drivers, and Station Staff report their concerns around the safety issues they are experiencing in relation to School Children who use SWR (South Western Railway) services to attend Educational institutions across the Network. Over the course of the last 4 years there has been an increase in incidents and safety related accidents involving School children in key hotspots across the SWR Network at key locations such as Hamble, Romsey and many other Stations in the outer and inner areas within the SWR region that allow easy access and transport to local School facilities. Through many investigations internally and externally, these incidents and accidents have been directly linked to the lack of understanding and Education that is available on Railway safety to not only children but also adults in the General Public, who have children who regularly use the services we provide. There is and has always been a huge lapse in educating people outside of the industry on the dangers of the Operational Railway, and through the absence of basic safety knowledge, a culture has been created whereby Minors under the age of 16 have become complacent at Stations and on Platforms, jeopardising not only the safety of themselves but also our colleagues/members and Trains.

More recently reports have been raised by our Salisbury Branch Representatives regarding School children at Romsey who have been contributing to many near miss incidents by running up against moving trains, standing deliberately in front of the yellow line with the knowledge that this will cause issues for the dispatch of the Train, and displaying general anti-social behaviours, causing much stress and added pressure to a role that is performed under the highest of safety standards and competency.

Furthermore, a large number of reports have also been raised by Fratton Depot in relation to the Hamble School children, who on a daily basis act in an irresponsible and dangerous manner when at the Station, including but not limited to, attempted train surfing, interfering with the dispatch process, intentionally causing potential safety incidents to stop the dispatch of the train. This ultimately led to a School child falling onto the track, missing the electrified rail by inches and also causing an oncoming train to break before the stop mark, causing a stop short and an Operational incident which evidently would cause unnecessary stress to the driver.

With the above in mind, over the last couple of years Network Rail Community Safety Manager, Marcia Bernett has been working tirelessly alongside the Eastleigh Rail Community Officers to educate and escalate the growing dangers caused by School Children with no regard to the safety of themselves or our Operational colleagues and trains. The efforts of both RCO’s and Network Rail have meant that roughly between 20,000 – 25,000 School children have received some form of education in relation to Railway safety. However, despite our best efforts, and that of our colleagues reporting their concerns, unfortunately the ever-growing number of School children attending these local Schools has left us in a position where we are no longer able to educate as we would like too and as we should be doing as part of our obligation to keep the Railway safe for them and our colleagues. Our efforts and resources have been maximised to their limits and in order to continue to support our Train Crew and Station colleagues/RMT Members we need the help and support of external sources.

Members of Salisbury and Andover Rail branch believe the amazing work that has been contributed by Marcia Bernett in educating young people needs to be supported from all aspects across the board and as a Union this Region request that the NEC investigate methods where the RMT work in partnership alongside NWR and SWR to help educate young Railway users. The lack of railway safety education and understanding of consequences from passengers under 16, ultimately and directly impacts our Operational front-line colleagues and members, whom of which have responsibility to safeguard young people at our Stations and on our Trains. The added pressure we are asking our colleagues and members to put themselves under is having a catastrophic effect on the overall job of the Guard and Rail Operator whilst in work and putting their safety at risk.

This Region requests NEC commits the RMT to support the push to educate young people about the dangers of the railway by offering what the NEC deem appropriate to support the construction of a rail safety centre if agreed by all parties. The cost is likely to be substantial – between 25 – 35K. The cost of the centre would be ultimately covered by NWR and SWR however there is likely to be a considerable shortfall in funding which is why we are asking that the RMT work in partnership with us to create a safety centre that can be used to educate generations of people. The creation of a safety centre would leave a real legacy and demonstrate our commitment to creating a safer railway for all and show our colleagues and members that we take their concerns seriously. This is great opportunity for the RMT to showcase their support to their members and help decrease the potential liability in worst case scenarios, where an incident involving a child results in serious injury or death, and a fellow RMT member is the traincrew or Station staff involved, causing undue stress and having an adverse effect on their mental health.

The proposal today is not about who is or isn’t doing enough to stop major incidents occurring. This proposal today is about pulling together as a Railway industry and working together to ultimately save lives, not only from the perspective of life and death but saving the long-term adverse effects witnessing and dealing with major incidents have on our members. The task at hand is not a simple overnight fix and will take the efforts of everyone who is passionate about protecting our members and Railway. The time is truly over to lay responsibility on different companies’ doors and collaborate as one to ensure the safety of our members from all aspects.

At its meeting on 19th November 2021, your National Executive Committee noted and adopted the following report from its Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We instruct the General Secretary to write to RMT Wessex Regional Council thanking them for their resolution, noting the trauma caused to RMT members when incidents take place involving school children in trespass on the line incidents and other safety related accidents.

The GS to explain in his letter that RMT intend on being fully involved in Company schemes, which are aimed at educating the general public about the dangers of the Operational Railway – but to explain that as the legal onus is on NWR and SWR to address such issues – therefore the financial commitment is with them also. Given this RMT will not be contributing financially to a Safety Centre.

Additionally, we note that Southeastern recently opened a safety centre – but that RMT were not asked to make a financial contribution towards this.

The General Secretary to write to all Branches and Regional Councils advising them accordingly.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions. Please bring the contents of this circular to the attention of relevant members.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary