6 April 2017
RMT Press Office:
RMT demands inquiry as rail regulator admits “significant knowledge gap” over driver only trains.
RAIL UNION RMT is demanding an inquiry and a halt to the introduction of Driver Only Services as rail regulator the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) admits there is a “significant knowledge gap” in whether rail companies are meeting access and equality obligations for disabled passengers who wish to turn up and travel without having to book assistance in advance.
Separately, the ORR has admitted in a letter to the union’s solicitors that where disabled passengers do turn up to travel on Southern trains and there is no On Board Service Supervisor “assistance” can include having to wait for the next train or going to a completely new (staffed) station all together.
In an Invitation to Tender for research work issued by the ORR earlier in the year the ORR says:
“ORR currently has a significant knowledge gap regarding the quality of assistance that is being provided across the network via this ‘turn-up-and-go’ scheme. We therefore require urgent primary research to provide us with evidence that industry’s obligations in this area are being met and that users of turn-up-and-go are being provided with a level of service that meets their needs and expectations.”
The tender document also admits this knowledge gap extends to “Train staffing arrangements e.g. staffed trains vs driver only operated trains.”
The revelations comes as the RMT is due to hold talks with Southern Trains this week ahead of further strike action scheduled for 8 April;
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
"It is well established that once the guarantee of a guard is withdrawn then disabled passengers are disadvantaged because they can no longer be assured of being able to turn up and get on or off the train at unstaffed stations.”
“Now we find out that the ORR, which is meant to protect the rights of disabled passengers, has admitted that they have no idea of the impact of driver only trains on disabled passengers and instead of having a guard to assist it appears it is acceptable for such passengers to miss trains and go to different stations once those trains have been missed.”
“Despite this knowledge gap the ORR has been giving the green light to Driver Only Services. At best they have been asleep on the job but more likely they are in cahoots with rail companies and in doing so are rolling back the rights of disabled passengers. This is a sickening way to treat rail disabled passengers and we are calling for a full inquiry into the ORR’s actions and a halt to the introduction of DOO services.
“We shall also be writing to the ORR Chief Executive Joanna Whittington for an explanation and consulting our legal team on further options.”
Notes to editors
The ORR Invitation to Tender can be found at http://bit.ly/2nWEnlY