Our Ref: BR2/0146

16th November 2018

Dear Colleague,


On Monday I, along with Mick Tosh (RMT lead officer for SWR), met with Andy Mellors, MD of South Western Railways, along with Sharon Johnson HR Director and Alan Penlington Customer Services director.

The meeting was called following concerns by the company that we had not responded to the offer made on 6th August 2018 around a framework for discussing a resolution to the dispute.

I took the opportunity to remind the company that the union was in dispute with South Western Railways on two points first the Role of the Guard and second Extension of Driver Only Operation.

Current position:-

You may recall that on 6th August 2018 the company proposed the following for discussion.

1. South Western Railway confirm that on the introduction of any new or other modified rolling stock, each passenger train shall operate with a 2nd person with safety critical competencies. Specific Safety Critical competencies shall be agreed by SWR and RMT.

2. All rolling stock train dispatch shall be subject to undertaking a safety risk assessment, on a station by station basis. This assessment will be completed with the involvement of company and trade union representatives utilising the agreed PTI assessment method already in place in the company, in addition to the utilisation of new technology within new or modified rolling stock.

3. SWR and RMT will agree a disruption policy to ensure that passengers are kept moving during times of service disruption.

It was pointed out to the company that we had indeed met following that offer and had also postponed strike action as a result. At the discussions in August 2018 it was quite clear that points one and two were clear but that point three, an introduction of a disruption policy required clarity. In that vein we proposed a policy with an order of call which would minimize the level of cancellations or disruption caused by the non-availability of a guard.

It is fair to say that at the time there was some discussion but there was no counter proposal from the company. Indeed it was quite clear that the company position was that whatever the result of a disruption policy they still wanted the option to run a train without a guard.

It is telling the company see the Guard as providing a customer service role more than an operational role hence the reason the Customer Service Director not the Operations Director (who oversees Train Drivers) being at the meeting who focused on commercial/revenue ideas rather than the operational arrangements we consider essential to resolving this dispute.

It was clear at the meeting on Monday that the company’s policy has not changed from their initial position of wanting to run trains without a Guard. It is also clear that the company have a central believe that the new trains being introduced do not need a guard and should be allowed to run without one! Consequently they want the option of running these trains without a guard in certain circumstances to minimize inconvenience to passengers such as in times of ‘Code Black’.

We pointed out that when averaged on a weekly basis - using their own figures of 0.2 cancellations across the network - it represents only a dozen or so such incidences from approximately 11900 trains a week. We informed the company that we would work with them on service recovery to reduce that very small number further.

We see little evidence of the impact of the non-availability of the guard causing problems for passengers. We do see a whole of host problems with the operation of the franchise yet the company seem intent on focusing on the role of the guard rather than more essential problems which would undoubtedly benefit passengers.

Ironically the company expressed their mantra to use the cover of passenger inconvenience, albeit it in a small amount of occasions, to achieve its real goal which is to get the union to accept that they can run trains without the need for a guard. In other words to get the union to accept Driver Only Operation or as they call it Driver Controlled Operation.

We pushed the company hard on whether they really needed a disruption policy, based upon running a train without a guard in view of the facts around the minimal amount of problems it really caused. At this juncture the company undertook to consider our points and respond to us.

Once that response is received I will write to you again.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary