Coronavirus Outbreaks at Northern Trains Limited - Leeds Travel Centre Complex

Head Office Circular NP/267/20
Our Ref: HSR/1/3
2nd November 2020

Dear Colleague


Further to Head Office Circular NP/248/18, 8th October 2020, a reply was received from Paul Bennett, Safety and Environment Director (Interim), Northern Trains LTD, as follows (edited):

Thank you for your letter dated the 17th September 2020 in respect of the Coronavirus outbreaks at Leeds travel centre. This letter sets out our response to the questions that you raised in your original letter.

Our locations including the Leeds travel centre all have a risk assessment in place which sets out the control measures we have in place to ensure they are Covid secure. These risk assessments are aligned to the Government/PHE guidance which we have been following since the pandemic began, and have been consulted with the relevant Health and Safety (H&S) representatives.

I can confirm that for the Leeds travel centre we have a single management point of contact who is the Station Manager Leeds (Retail). They have worked closely throughout the Covid pandemic with the RMT H&S rep who has been party to and consulted on the risk assessments for the travel centre, OTAP, Gateline and excess fares office.

We also have regular engagement through our Sub-Joint Safety Committee (JSC) meeting which is attended by H&S reps from all trade unions including RMT, ASLEF, Unite and TSSA. We have recently had the ORR Inspector attend our Sub-JSC meeting at the request of our RMT Regional Organiser who observed the meeting and commented on the positive engagement and healthy debate between management and trade union representatives.

Following the positive tests, the travel centre at Leeds was closed and a deep clean was undertaken which included the travel centre, OTAP office and all adjacent offices and communal areas. This deep clean was completed using the Zoono cleaning product which provides prolonged protection in addition to the regular cleaning regime in place.

Previous deep cleans may not have included all of these communal areas, but that process has now been improved and all areas will be included in any deep clean required going forward.

Our usual process when deploying this cleaning method is to follow the direction of the cleaning contractors (ISS) which normally provides a 2 hour window post deployment before allowing staff to return into the rooms.

It appears on this occasion there was a breakdown in communication and when the upstairs offices were cleaned the teams in the OTAP office were not made aware not to use the facilities upstairs and there was still a smell post cleaning. This has now been rectified and any future cleaning using this method will necessitate the close down of the entire office complex.

Following discussions with the RMT representatives we have installed HEPA particulate filtered air purifiers throughout the travel centre building.

A single point of ingress was already in place for those arriving for work to reduce the number of entry points……..

Following on from the [further, small] outbreak [at the company’s Training Centre in Manchester] which was limited to that particular group we have reviewed the risk assessment with our H&S reps and have introduced a couple of additional controls including reducing further the number of learners and stipulating that the trainer must wear a mask and visor when checking the learners screen. It is worth pointing out that the academy has been open since the 15th June during which time we have had on the majority of occasions up to 72 trainees plus trainers on site and this is the first outbreak we have had.

On considering this letter the National Executive Committee, at its meeting on 20th October, noted and adopted the following report of its Health and Safety Sub-committee:

We note the letter from Northern Rail. The General Secretary is instructed to write to Northern Rail seeking a meeting between the company and RMT. The General Secretary is further instructed to seek an updated report from the Regional Organiser.

Any updates to be placed before this NEC.

Branches and Regional Councils to be advised.

I am acting in accordance with these instructions and will keep you informed of developments.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary