6 September 2016
RMT Press Office
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) to join Southern Guards picket line tomorrow morning.
Campaigners from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) will join the RMT picket line at Victoria Station at 8am tomorrow as they show their support and solidarity with the fight to retain safety-critical guards on Southern Rail services.
The whole issue of disabled access to services has been carefully ignored by Southern/GTR as they have ploughed on with plans that will downgrade and remove guards from trains in the shift to Driver Only Operation.
Without a guard on board, and with the de-staffing of stations, people with disabilities will be effectively barred from using the railway in a move that the union has described as “the most blatant and cynical discrimination in the drive for profits.”
A report by a group of disability campaigners compiled last month – attached – has detailed the reality of Driver Only Operation on our railways and has drawn the following conclusions:
“GTR have made a commitment for trains to have an on-board supervisor on all trains except in ‘exceptional circumstances’. The concept of “exceptional circumstances” is not one that would enable any disabled or older person to travel with confidence. It was very clear from our journeys that, at almost every stage, without the presence of staff we would have been unable to continue to complete a journey or would have been carried beyond our destinations.
“Our wheelchair user is concerned that the company may be relying on passengers with additional needs pre-booking journeys as a reasonable adjustment. It is unlawful to deny travel to “turn up and go” passengers (like aviation’s Regulation (EC) 1107/2006) but unlike aviation there is no robust system of data collection to ensure that pre-booking makes any difference to journey success, in fact the wheelchair user we met at Chichester had done so and was still reliant on the guard.
“So we believe that if a train runs DOO to an unstaffed station with a passenger who is unable to exit the train unassisted, then an offence will be committed under the Equality Act 2010 in that it will be a “provision, criterion or practice” that puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage. This needs to be understood and acted upon both by the ORR and the Department for Transport, who are also bound by the public sector duties of the Act.
“After 30 years of commitment, effort and public expenditure to ensure that disabled people can travel by train, as by other modes, with confidence, we risk taking a significant retrograde step that will effectively deny people those hard won rights. That is simply unacceptable.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
“The union supports the points raised by the disability campaigners and the conclusion that the GTR plans represent an offence under the Equality Act 2010 as they will clearly put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage. GTR, hoarding £100 million in profits and soaking up public funds, have ignored these points right from the off. That attitude is disgraceful.
"The guards action from tomorrow on Southern goes ahead as planned. RMT remains available for serious talks but GTR clearly have no interest in resolving the dispute and it is also clear that the Government are propping them up financially and politically.
"Just a fraction of the £100 million the GTR parent company is hoarding in profits would be enough to keep a guard on the Southern trains, keep the trains safe and accessible and resolve the dispute. It is absolutely right to call for the Government to intervene and to hold those responsible for this continuing shambles to account."