RMT Meeting with Greater Anglia – 4th August 2017

Meeting with Greater Anglia – 4th August 2017


We met with company representatives Jamie Burles (Managing Director), Michelle Smart (HR Director) and Phil Wones (Head of Service Delivery).  The RMT were represented by Mick Cash (General Secretary) and Steve Smart (Regional Organiser).  The meeting had been called by the RMT as a result of the outcome from discussions at the recent meeting the General Secretary had with Secretary of State Chris Grayling, which has led to the union writing to all the companies we are in dispute with concerning DOO.


The company were keen to point out that about 67% of the franchise was already DOO and they were seeking an agreement with us to introduce DCO, which they said was now the industry standard, as confirmed by RSSB.  They defined DCO (Driver Controlled Operation) as the driver opening and closing the doors, indeed they seem quite infatuated with the driver opening and closing the doors. 


We did point out to them that the DfT defined DCO in the East Anglia Franchise ITT version 3 documents as the “operation of a train alone without the need for a conductor (or any other Franchise Employee)”.  In addition to this, we also pointed out that the Scottish government defined the deal we made with Abellio in their Scotrail franchise, as DCO.  The agreed method of work in Scotrail is for the driver to release the doors with the conductor undertaking the agreed method of train dispatch and closing of the doors.


We are surprised that the company and DfT have different interpretations concerning the same issue, which in any event we pointed out to them, that DCO and DOO are one of the same, no matter how the Government and Rail Industry attempts to rename DOO because of its bad reputation.


It is clear that with Greater Anglia proposing to introduce new trains in their new franchise, they are also seeking to introduce a completely new method of operation.  We discussed the new trains they are introducing and expressed our concern to them, particularly in respect of the Stadler trains that our representatives viewed during a recent visit to the factory, where it came to our attention that it was clearly their intention not to have door control panels fitted on both sides of the train in the drivers cab, which would facilitate conventional working with a conductor.


They confirmed that the new Bombardiar Aventra trains are enabled for conventional working, but in regards to the Stadler FLIRT, whilst the controls were only on one side in the drivers cab, it was possible for a conductor to operate in conventional mode, using the in cab monitors to dispatch.  Interestingly, they indicated that it was possible to come up with a method of operation to facilitate this.  They confirmed that in any event the FLIRTS were enabled for conventional operation as they also had controls fitted throughout the length of the train. 


At the time of the visit to the Stadler factory, representations were made by our representatives to the Greater Anglia management representatives present, for a design change, to install door controls on both sides of the drivers cab.  The company were adamant that the procurement of the trains had reached a position where the design was frozen, in other words, they were finalised.  It is our representatives contention, that Stadler could have changed the design of the drivers cab at that time, having heard our representations, and it just needed Greater Anglia to request such a design change, as the actual order for the new Stadler train fleet had not been ‘signed-off’ at that point in time.


We asked the company to confirm the number of conductors the company employed, and we were advised that currently there are 222, plus a number of recently employed trainees.  We then sought confirmation of the number of conductors they would employ throughout the duration of the franchise, which arose, from us having in our possession a blank copy of the bid document that the company are required to complete with such information at the point in time they submit their bid for the franchise to the DfT. 


They initially confirmed that they would be able to guarantee the same number of conductors to the end of the franchise, which ends in 2025.  However, later they indicated that the number of conductors would be dependent upon the amount of trains they would be running, which has yet to be finalised in future timetable alterations.  Of course, the extent of this impact cannot be measured at the moment, as this would depend on the method of operation to be used in the future, which they are seeking to change by extending DOO.


Further to this, we sought clarification where conductors are utilised today and they confirmed it is on their existing Regional Services, Intercity Services and parts of Great Eastern Services.  One particular area where they are keen to extend DOO is on the Great Eastern routes that service Southminster (3 trains a day), Braintree (9 trains a day) and Colchester Town (16-20 trains a day).  On these routes, the need for conductors is dependent upon the length of the trains; however, they argue that the new trains have technology, such as CCTV and Selective Door Operation, which would allow the trains to run without a conductor.


We drew to the company’s attention that the franchise bid did not require them to introduce DOO; it was not in the invitation to tender process and queried whether they are being required to introduce it by the DfT.  The company confirmed it was not a franchise requirement by the DfT and that it is something they are doing off there own back.  We were surprised at this, as they have previously indicated that they may maintain the level of conductors through the franchise, this was when it was announced that Greater Anglia had been awarded the new franchise in October 2016. 


From then to now, we have continually challenged them to confirm that conductors would be retained, and employed to undertake their current roles and responsibilities, including being safety critical, now, and for the duration of the franchise.  It is only recently that Greater Anglia have been prepared to ‘come clean’ with us, by confirming they do not intend to keep conductors performing their existing role and responsibilities, as well as being safety critical with an agreed method of train dispatch.


In our discussions we relayed our key objectives, which are in addition to the point concerning the new rolling stock being conventionally enabled.  Firstly, we are seeking a guarantee of a second person on the train and that the train would not run without one, as well as that person being safety critical qualified with an agreement of the best method of train dispatch.  In responding to this, it was clear that the company were quite fixated on the driver opening and closing the door. 


We emphasised that we were meeting them with an objective of gaining resolution to the current dispute situation we are in with them, similarly to that we had been able to achieve with Scotrail, by making a comparable arrangement with Abellio in Scotland.  It is abundantly clear to us, the reason that Abellio in Scotland was able to make an agreement with the RMT and Aslef, was because the Scottish government supported the deal.  Notwithstanding that, we made it clear that the same arrangement, as reached with Abellio in Scotland, could potentially resolve this dispute.


Following an adjournment the company responded by stating that they were happy to explore a staffing agreement which would identify the number of conductors required in the future, as well as explore with us the role of the conductor ‘long term’, including redefining the safety element i.e. rule book safety and train evacuation.   They continued by stating they wanted to redefine the role of the conductor, being more ‘customer focussed’, along with enhancing the ‘customer experience’, and indicated that their preferred method of operation in the future is for the driver to open and close the doors.


We pointed out that at this stage we were not looking for ‘woolly words’, but clear commitments and we reiterated our request for a guarantee of a second person on the train and for that person to be safety critical qualified, as well as reaching an agreement on the method of train dispatch.  They would not give a Yes or No answer, which bearing in mind the stage we are at in regards to balloting our members, we feel says it all.


It was clear to us, that we would not be getting any clear commitments from Greater Anglia, and it was at this point that the meeting broke up as there was no likelihood of us being able to achieve a ‘way forward’.


In summary:-


  The franchise does not require DOO (DCO) to be introduced; the company are doing it because they can.

  The company confirmed that the government are not requiring them to introduce DOO (DCO).

  The new trains are equipped to operate conventionally with a Conductor on board.

  They confirmed, but didn’t guarantee, that Conductor numbers will remain about the same or slightly increase during the franchise.

  They would not guarantee a second person on the train.

  They would not guarantee that person would be safety critical qualified.

  They confirmed that their preferred method of operation is the driver opening and closing the doors.

  The company offered talks on a staffing agreement that would include redefining the role of the conductor going forward.