RMT reveals cost of resolving Southern guards dispute

RMT reveals cost of resolving Southern guards dispute

23 November 2016

RMT Press Office:

RMT says cost of resolving Southern guards dispute a "tiny fraction" of Government bail-out and parent company profits.

ON THE SECOND DAY of the latest phase of strike action on Southern Rail, RMT revealed that the cost of resolving the dispute would be a tiny fraction of the £20 million bail-out thrown at the company by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and a drop in the ocean compared to the £157 million in profits being stockpiled by the Southern parent company Go Ahead.


© RMT: Pickets at Horsham station today
RMT has calculated that simply filling the extra 20 guards posts effectively deleted from the establishment by the company back in January would not only guarantee the second safety-critical person on the trains, the issue at the heart of the dispute, but would also dramatically improve the reliability of the service to the travelling public across the board. The union estimates that the total cost would be comfortably less than £1 million.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said
“The key issue at the heart of the dispute is that GTR have refused to agree that passengers will keep the guarantee they currently have of a safety critical Conductor/ On-board Service Supervisor staff on their train in addition to the driver. The company say this is because in the event of the Conductor OBS not being available they have to cancel trains.
“However, the key plank of Southern argument is in fact a lie - non availability of conductors as a cause of train cancellations is almost statistically irrelevant accounting for 0.06% of cancellations, according to information provided the company to MP’s. That equates to 0.42 of a train a day whereas the southern mismanagement of the franchise accounts for hundreds of cancellations.
“What’s more even these small amounts of cancellations will be down to company mismanagement including not filling vacancies and poor rostering. The union position is clear, if the company hadn’t reneged on an agreement to fill 20 vacancies on the guards establishment back in January not only could they give the copper-bottomed guarantee of that second safety-critical member of staff on their trains but it would dramatically reduce the cancellations that are a matter of routine on this franchise.
“The cost of staffing up to a level that would meet the safety guarantees, improve dramatically the level of passenger service and set a framweork to resolve the dispute would be a faction of the cash Chris Grayling has thrown at Southern and the profits being stockpiled by Govia. RMT wants urgent talks around those issues to allow us to map out a solution to the dispute.”

1.       The figures relating to trains were provided to the RMT by GTR and see 700 trains moving from Driver with a guranteed Conductor and replaced with Driver and not guaranteed  On Board Supervisers.
2.        Go Ahead operating profit of £157 million extracted Go Ahead group accounts 2016.
3.       Letter from Tom Brake MP to a constituent passed to RMT below
November 2017.

I have now received a response from Southern on the document you sent
me. I am also in the process of liaising with local disability groups
to look at the state of our local stations. I will let you know as soon
as there are any developments.

''The report has provided useful and actionable insight regarding the
current train operations and the authors assumptions regarding how
Southern will support passengers with accessibility needs after the OBS
role is introduced. We continue to welcome the opportunity to share out
detailed plans with the authors; one of which has been working with us
in an advisory capacity and has free travel passes across our
services to support improving making it easier for disabled passengers
to travel on our services. The review neither reflects the improved
processes that will be put in place or the fact that the risk of an OBS
(second person being on a train) is incredibly small. Southern will
guarantee that every train currently operated with a conductor will
continue to have either a traditional conductor or a second member of
on board staff rostered.

In advance of this review / mystery shop being completed, we had
offered to share our detailed reviews and in depth plans with the
authors, and we continue to welcome the opportunity to do so. The
report has therefore been completed without this context or
understanding and whilst it provides very useful insight into the
experience the authors had; it does really only reflect the
current service offering without an understanding of what will be
changing and improving to deliver after the OBS role is introduced. We
will be reaching out to the authors again to offer this.

As part of our franchise, in recognition of an ever-increasing demand
for our services, it is vital that we modernise the way we work to
improve the experience for our passengers. Meeting the needs of those
with accessibility needs are fundamental to our plans, and we are
absolutely determined to ensure that these plans continue to enable all
passengers to access our network and travel with greater confidence on
our services.

In addition to plans to introduce the role of the On Board Supervisor
(OBS) our plans to modernise stations will bring further benefits to
all passengers, including disabled passengers, including; first-to-last
staffing at more stations and facilities open for longer e.g. waiting
rooms and toilets. We also continue to invest in making our stations
more accessible and introducing new trains which are more suited to the
needs of disabled passengers.

We invest in the completion of regular accessibility mystery shops (pre-
booked and turn up-and-go) to continuously improve the service provided
to passengers with assisted travel needs. These mystery shops are
completed by people with a range of disabilities and across all routes
; including the 40% of Southern services which are already Driver
Only Operated (DOO). The feedback from this report is a welcome
additional mystery shop regarding the current service. Whilst noting
that it is limited to the experience on a single day, there are very
useful points that we have taken away to action; notably the
feedback regarding help points, lugs and our on-going work to further
improve on-board information provision.

The report also references the view that the current assisted travel
support is not always consistent. The OBS role provides us with the
opportunity to improve the quality and consistency of support provided
to disabled passengers; all staff will have dedicated accessibility
training supported by new ways of working across teams involved in
supporting our passenger to complete their journey. The report notes
some current good practices and these will continue.

We welcome the report findings that passengers, including those with
accessibility needs, value the presence of a person. Without the need
to close the door, our on board staff member (the On Board Supervisor -
OBS) will have more time to assist all passengers, including disabled
passengers and will also be able to deploy ramps as per Conductor
operated services. The intent is also for the OBS to be trained to a
‘safety competent’; level including track safety training,
train evacuation, traction competence and full commercial route
knowledge (excluding train dispatch). We can also confirm that we also
recognise the great service provided by our station Care Teams at
Brighton and East Croydon and there are no plans to change this.

Southern does not agree that running a driver-only train would be any
breach, less still a clear breach, of the Equality Act. The report
states; “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.
A breach of the Equality Act involves more than a ‘provision, criterion or practice’
that puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage. It requires there to have been an
associated failure to make reasonable adjustments to avoid that
substantial disadvantage. We believe that the actions which we will put
in place will cause Southern to be compliant with Equality Act
obligations. Detailed work is in progress to define operational
solutions to deliver reasonable adjustments. In line with the
requirements of the Equality Act 2010, adjustments will be in place to
ensure that should this scenario arise then any passenger requiring
accessibility assistance to reach an unmanned / partially manned
station will be supported in doing so without unreasonable delay or

40% of Southern services are currently Driver Only Operated (DOO),
where passengers widely travel without any difficulties using a variety
of staffed, un-staffed and partially staffed stations. On all services
where we are extending DOO on the Southern network, we will be
rostering an OBS. The specific scenarios when a train will leave
without an OBS will be fully defined and will only be in exceptional
circumstances, for example due to late notice OBS sickness or severe
disruption. Under a Conductor Operation, the individual train service
would otherwise be cancelled - to the detriment of hundreds of
passengers on the service, with a further knock-on impact on thousands
more passengers, including disabled passengers. Given the wide range of
disabilities, many disabled passengers e.g. those with learning
difficulties would also in fact benefit from us running a service that
would otherwise be cancelled.

We would highlight that a review of cancellations due to ‘no
conductor’ (pre-RMT strikes) has confirmed that the risk of this
arising is less than 0.06% of trains on routes moving from a conductor
to an OBS. Whilst this is a relatively small volume of individual
trains, thousands of passengers have their journeys disrupted.''


Tom Brake
Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington

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