29 July 2019
RMT Press Office:
RMT demands new Transport Secretary put accessible and safe railways first
Rail union RMT has today added its voice to those of passenger groups calling on new Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to put an end to the drive toward Driver Only Operated trains and to make the railway accessible to all by ensuring that trains and stations are fully staffed.
Documents secured under Freedom of Information legislation by the Association of British Commuters (ABC) show that Ministers have been colluding with the railway industry to push forward policies that could lead to more trains without a second safety critical member of staff passing through unstaffed stations on the basis of a policy report that they’ve refused to admit exists, and in the face of fierce criticism from its own disabled persons’ advisory committee, DPTAC.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said;
“RMT has fought the government and the train operating companies tooth and nail to defend a second safety critical member of staff on our trains and we’ve stepped up the campaign to put more staff back in our stations.
"It’s a scandal that ministers have been working in secret with these companies on cost-cutting and profit-boosting policies that will make our railways less accessible to disabled people.
"The new rail minister must publish this report, put an end to this disgraceful exercise and put staff back at the heart of a fully accessible railway”.
Emily Yates of the Association of British Commuters said;
"After three years of rail strikes we’ve had enough of the government’s charade. Train operating companies must guarantee the second safety critical member of staff on trains and the Department for Transport must provide the full details of their secret policy.
"If they fail to do this, both will be complicit in breaching the Equality Act and excluding disabled people from the right to spontaneous travel."
Emails and correspondence obtained by the Association of British Commuters under FOI legislation show:
· In April this year, DPTAC, the government’s own advisory committee on disabled people’s access to transport, raised serious concerns that the use of Driver Only Operated trains on routes with unstaffed stations may be unlawful under Equality legislation. DPTAC describe this as a ‘potentially toxic combination of driver-only operated trains and unstaffed stations’.
· In an email of 29 May, DPTAC expressed concern that ‘ministers are potentially considering the wider use of Driver Controlled operation (DCO)’ without ensuring that a second member of on-board staff would always be available to assist disabled people.
· The Committee expressed serious reservations that the Department and the Rail industry are developing this policy on the basis of a secret report commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group from the Steer consultancy which DPTAC says ‘fails to adequately disaggregate or analyse the impacts of the different methods of train operation, particularly in relation to DOO trains and the availability of on-train and station staff’.
· Emails between DfT officials and DPTAC show the Department admitting that the existence of this report has been withheld from public scrutiny by disability groups, including the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and that Ministers have still not decided whether to share it at all. In the meantime, the report has been shared between the DfT, the Rail Delivery Group and Train Operating companies without any public scrutiny.
· In a succession of letters, emails and in its submission to the Williams Review, DPTAC has called on Ministers to ‘consider adopting an explicit policy with regard to accessibility that ensures that disabled passengers can always expect to have assistance provided either by a member of staff of on-board staff’ and has recommended a general policy to ensure that ‘always be a member of staff to provide assistance either at stations where a disabled passenger boards/alights or on-board the train service(s) they use’.
 See, for example, DPTAC’s submission to the Williams Review - https://abcommuters.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/DPTACs-second-submission-to-the-Williams-Review-Working-towards-a-fully-accessible-railway-8th-May-1.pdf together with the questions in the email dated 29 May here:https://abcommuters.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/June-2019-emails-DPTAC-arrange-meeting-with-Transport-Ministers-and-send-urgent-questions-in-advance-1.pd