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4 October 2017
RMT Press Office:
RMT seeks urgent meeting with Liverpool leaders after exposing ‘misinformation, distortion and lie’ in Merseytravel report.
AN URGENT meeting with Liverpool City Region leaders is being sought today by rail union RMT following revelation of “a shocking litany of misinformation, distortion and blatant lie” in a Merseytravel report on the Merseyrail guards dispute.
A five-page dossier detailing the most serious inaccuracies in a report by Merseytravel’s chief executive to the City Region Combined Authority last month has today been sent to the leaders of the six constituent authorities and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.
The union calls for an urgent meeting to put the record straight and set a road-map towards a resolution of RMT’s dispute with Merseyrail over the imposition of driver-only operation.
The catalogue of inaccuracies in Frank Rogers’ report includes “wilful misrepresentation” of the accident report following the 2011 James Street fatality, misinformation over the sequence of events leading to the decision to impose driver-only operation and a “blatant lie” about RMT’s position.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “It is disgraceful that a civil servant has twisted the outcome of an inquiry into the death of a young girl at James Street to suit an agenda that will undermine rail safety.
“Eight months ago the Rail Accident Investigation Branch issued a clarification that its report on James Street could not be interpreted to mean that driver-only train operation was the only way for its recommendations to be met, yet that is exactly what Rogers has tried to do.
“Rogers also told the authority a blatant lie about RMT’s position on the dispute in a clear attempt to discredit the union in the eyes of the city’s elected leaders. That is despicable and unacceptable from a civil servant.
“Rogers has attempted to take the Metro Mayor and council leaders for mugs, and they need to be able to set the record straight, heed public opinion and work with us towards a solution.
“As for Merseyrail, yesterday they had the gall to insult their own staff by calling them disloyal to their city, while syphoning tens of millions to Utrecht in dividends that would pay to keep the guards several times over.”
Regional Organiser John Tilley said: “The video of Rogers’ report was circulated to Merseyrail staff and it has backfired spectacularly.
“Not only did it alert the union to the shocking distortions and blatant untruth in what was supposed to be a factual report, but its cynical use by Merseyrail has angered our members.
“Mayor Rotheram knows the importance of guards first-hand, because when he was witness to an medical emergency at Moorfields recently his first reaction, quite rightly, was to step off the train asking for the guard, who was on hand and dealt with the situation by the book.
“Steve now needs to come off the fence and play the leading role he was elected to.”
Note to editors: RMT’s letter to the Metro Mayor and six council leaders is below
Text of letter sent by RMT to the six Liverpool City Region Combined Authority leaders today
It is with grave concern that I write to draw your attention to the shocking factual inaccuracies, distortions and blatant untruths contained in the report on the new Merseyrail rolling stock presented by Merseytravel CEO Frank Rogers to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting held on September 15, 2017.
Although I was not present at the meeting, a video recording of it has been posted on the Knowsley Council YouTube channel and I have been able to review the proceedings, and will detail the most important inaccuracies below.
The video link was also sent to all Merseyrail staff by MD Jan Choudhary van der Velde – a move which has backfired, as our members have been hugely angered by the level of misinformation it contains.
For ease of reference I will supply the relevant timings in the video recording.
Perhaps the most serious is the wilful misrepresentation of the RAIB report of its investigation into the October 2011 James Street fatality in order to justify the removal of the second safety-critical member of Merseyrail traincrew.
At 51:35 in the video recording, Mr Rogers tells the meeting that DOO is the “only realistic way we can respond to the findings of the RAIB report from the James Street fatality in 2011”.
At 57:29 Mr Rodgers elaborates, saying that, in order to be compliant with Recommendation No 1 of the James Street Report, “the person controlling the movement and braking of the train has to be able to monitor the passenger-train interface”.
Neither of these statements is true.
In fact, Recommendation No 1 of the James Street RAIB report says:
“Merseyrail should evaluate equipment and operational arrangements that allow the person responsible for train dispatch to:
a. observe the platform and train without interruption for as long as possible, ideally until the train has left the platform; and
b. stop the train directly and quickly in an emergency.
Equipment and operational arrangements should be evaluated for existing trains and platforms, and for planned changes and upgrades. The outcome of the evaluation should be a plan to implement appropriate measures to improve safety at the platform/train interface.”
This Recommendation in no way suggests or requires DCO/DOO as “the only realistic way” to comply with the RAIB report, and neither is there any mention of the person “controlling the movement and braking of the train”.
Rather, the recommendation is that person responsible for the dispatch should be able to stop the train directly and quickly in an emergency – and in the case of the new rolling stock, as suggested by RMT, by the fitting of an emergency-stop button alongside the in-cab video screens.
Indeed, misinterpretations of Recommendation No 1 prompted the Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents at RAIB, Simon French, to issue a clarification in February 2017, which concluded:
“It would be wrong to conclude that DCO is the only way in which the intent of the recommendation could be met.”
Our view as a trade union is that, given that the recommendation is for the person responsible for despatch to be able to monitor the platform without interruption, this should in fact preclude that person being the driver, whose entire attention should rightly be on the road and signals ahead.
Nonetheless, Mr Rogers did not see fit to report that RMT, seeking to break the impasse in the dispute with Merseyrail, has offered to refer the method of despatch to a safety working party, and has pledged to abide by its outcome. This is a serious omission, as it would help clarify that our dispute cannot be caricatured as being about who opens and closes the doors – as Mr Rogers does at several points in his report – but rather that it is about the necessity for a second safety-critical crew member on every train.
Further, Mr Rogers says, at 55:22, that the guidelines on DCO issued by the Office of Road and Rail and the Rail Safety and Standards Board “fully align with the approach we have adopted”.
This is at best misleading, as the method of operation being proposed by Merseyrail, in which the train driver would be expected to monitor CCTV of the platform at the same time as the train is under power, has not yet been validated and is not currently in use anywhere on the UK rail network. Indeed, the need for this method to be validated before it is introduced was acknowledged by Merseyrail’s Director of Operations, Andy Heath in a meeting with RMT on March 20, 2017.
At 58:20 Mr Rogers further states that all the bidders interested in building the new rolling stock were forwarded the RAIB James Street report as part of their brief and that it was the bidders themselves, responding to that report, who had unanimously recommended DCO.
Despite Mr Rogers later contradictory but equally misleading assertion that the business case does not allow anything other than DOO, the impression given is that Merseytravel remained open-minded on the subject.
This does not accord with the public statements made by Merseytravel, including by its former CEO, David Brown, and Project Manager, David Powell, on September 2, 2015 – well ahead of the tendering process – and reported by the Liverpool Echo, that the trains would be operated without Guards.
Neither does it accord with the information given to an RMT regional organiser at a meeting with Bombardier in August 2016, during which he was told by a senior Bombardier manager in the course of a slide-show presentation that the brief for the new Merseyrail rolling stock had always been to wire the rolling stock for DCO only.
The reality is that the Merseytravel Committee chair, Liam Robinson and the Merseytravel CEO tried to maintain, right up to the point that the final bidder was revealed, that RMT was being premature in going into dispute over DOO, as the decision had yet to be made.
RMT was already well aware that this was a deception, but it may be that members of the Merseytravel Committee were taken in by it.
At 55:00 and 56:00 Mr Rogers says that DCO is regarded as safe by both the Office for Road and Rail and by the Railway Safety and Standards Board.
He omits, however, that both organisations are funded by train-operating companies, some of whose directors sit in key positions on the RSSB’s controlling board; that the ORR board is appointed by the government that is driving the imposition of driver-only operation, and that neither organisation can therefore be said to be independent of vested private railway interests.
At 1:02:50, Mr Rogers states that 60 to 70 per cent of train journeys in the UK are on DOO/DCO trains. This is misleading, as the statistic includes journeys undertaken on light-rail systems, including London Underground (where nevertheless there has been a significant increase in passenger-train interface incidents), and trams: on heavy rail systems, some 70 per cent of journeys are on trains with a guard.
The Merseyrail network is a heavy-rail system, a fact emphasised by Merseytravel itself in its own business-case analysis, published in September 2015:
“2.2.5: There are 66 stations on the network, which means there are frequent stops which provide connectivity to many communities. In this way the network is similar in places to a metro-style commuter network, however in terms of rolling stock; light rail options are unsuitable to the physical constraints of the network.”
At 1:04:30, Mr Rogers – contradicting his earlier points on the tendering process – says that the business case does not allow for the delivery of a second safety-critical crew member on every train. This is an absurd argument, as it is true only because guards were written out of the business case.
At 1:04: 50, Mr Rogers says of the present arrangements: “As a consequence of the guard having to be in the rear cab for the vast majority of the time, they spend very little time in the saloon with the passengers.”
This again is not the case. The guard only has to be in the rear cab when the trains are in the underground sections of the network, and this is for safety reasons, not least so that a train can be safely evacuated at either end in the event of an emergency in a single-bore tunnel. At other times, the guard is free to move around the train and can open and close the doors from any carriage.
The idea that the proposed replacement of 207 guards with a quarter of that number of OBSs, other staff, such as cleaners and revenue-protection officers with different jobs to do, and the BTP will result in better ‘customer service’ – let alone safety – is ridiculous.
At 1:09:35, Mr Rogers says that no-one will suffer a financial detriment as a result of the abolition of guards on Merseyrail. This is not true, as the salaries of guards transferred to other duties would see their salaries frozen, and would not receive pay increases negotiated by the union, until the lower pay of the jobs they were transferred to ‘caught up’ with their higher guards’ pay.
In addition, station staff being employed by Merseyrail in the period leading up to the planned introduction of DOO are being taken on on temporary contracts, rather than permanent ones, and these will see themselves being made unemployed to make room for displaced guards.
At 1:11:05, Mr Rogers says that RMT had suggested putting up fares to pay for the retention of the second safety-critical crew member, but that this would mean increases at a level that would reduce ridership. The figures produced were based on fare increases to cover the entire cost.
This is a distortion of the union’s position: RMT did not suggest that fare increases alone could or should pay for the retention of guards, but that a small increase on the arrival of the new trains might make a contribution to the overall cost.
At 1:11 45, Mr Rogers says that RMT had asked about the potential for removing 240 station-staff jobs in order to pay for the retention of guards.
This can only be described as a blatant and outrageous lie.
In our meetings with Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and our attempts to negotiate a settlement with Merseyrail, RMT has never asked, and would never ask, for one set of grades to be sacrificed in order to save another. It is contrary to our principles as trade unionists and it is simply untrue.
At our second meeting with Mayor Rotheram, when this issue was raised by Mr Rogers himself, as if in answer to a question we had raised, he was stopped in his tracks and it was made crystal clear that this was not a question we had asked.
It is disgraceful that a public servant should attempt to propagate such a blatant fiction.
At our first meeting with Mayor Rotheram, Liam Robinson, the Chair of the Merseytravel Committee, said that he would look at the possibility of making savings elsewhere, but had the suggestion of de-staffing stations been raised, it would have been given short shrift.
To be clear, RMT is completely opposed to the de-staffing of stations, on safety and security grounds similar to those that inform our opposition to DOO.
Mr Rogers’ report contains numerous other inaccuracies and internal contradictions, including the selective use of passenger-focus surveys, misrepresentation of RMT’s position on the dispute with Merseyrail and on potential sources of funding, and on the tendering and commissioning process.
It is truly shocking that such a litany of inaccuracies and distortions should have been read into the official record of a public body.
Such misinformation will certainly not help resolve the dispute with Merseyrail
It is no wonder that we are embroiled in such a complex dispute if this is the level of deliberate misinformation and distortion that the combined authority is being fed by its own civil servants.
I therefore call upon the leaders of the six authorities within the city region, along with the Metro Mayor, to meet immediately with RMT to set out a road map that can resolve the dispute, as it is clear that the private train-operating company, Merseyrail, has no intention of doing so – they are too busy counting their scandalously excessive profits.
The Welsh Labour government has last week announced that it will be guaranteeing a second person on all of its trains in the future. It is about time that Merseyside did the same thing.