19 January 2016
RMT Press Office:
RMT steps up pressure for Southern to be taken into public ownership as union launches fight to retain guards.
RAIL UNION RMT today called for “an end to the warnings and a move to real action” from the Government to take the failing Southern Rail franchise into direct public ownership as staff launched a new fight for safety over the threat to axe guards on the service.
In recent months, MP’s from along the Southern route have been demanding action as cancellations, often sparked by dire staff shortages and a lack of usable trains, have doubled over the past four years.
10,000 Southern users have now signed a petition calling for public ownership of the service and even Croydon Tory MP Chris Philp has said he would have no problem with the Government seizing control.
Now the franchise holders, French-state part-controlled Govia Thameslink Railways, are threatening to axe 400 safety-critical guards from the Southern services as they seek to maximise profits, profits that are used to help subsidise rail operations the other side of the English Channel.
RMT has written to MP’s and Councillors the length of the Southern franchise, calling for their support for the union campaign to defend the guards and to end the gross profiteering on Southern which is at the root of all the current service problems.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“It is time for an end to all the warnings and for a move to real action to end the scandal that is the Southern Rail franchise. All the threats are like water off a ducks back to Govia as they simply do not believe that the Government will take decisive action to end the daily shambles that is ripping-off money from British passengers to subsidise state rail operations in France. That has to stop and, like the rest of Britain’s railways, the only real answer is public ownership.
“To rub salt in the wounds, Govia are now threatening to axe the safety-critical guards from their Southern trains in a move that would turn these dangerously over-crowded services into a lethal free-for-all in the name of even fatter profits.
“RMT is launching a campaign against this latest move to throw the guards off the trains and is calling for broad support from local politicians, passengers and the communities the length and breadth of Southern Rail. This is a fight that none of us can afford to lose.”
Full text of letter to MP’s and Councillors on threat to guards
Removal of guards/conductors from Southern services will create a muggers paradise
I am writing to you in respect of serious concerns the RMT has over proposals by Govia Thameslink Railways Ltd (GTR) to remove all guards/conductors and introduce Driver Only Operation on its routes through Sussex, Hampshire and Kent and into London. Not only will this see the loss of up to 400 decent rail jobs, If enacted these proposals will be detrimental for both passenger service and safety and create a muggers paradise on these services.
GTR are proposing these damaging cuts despite the fact that the vast majority of trains in the UK are still operated by two members of staff, a driver and a guard/conductor and that is a situation that passengers in these services will also want to see continue. This view is also supported by the House of Commons Transport Committee who in 2013 said “…we are very concerned that proposals to reduce staffing at stations and on trains could make the railway less safe, particularly at night, and deter women and vulnerable users from travelling by train.”
GTR’s proposals will not respect this advice but make it more than likely that vulnerable passengers will feel less safe.
Currently, both the driver and the guard/conductor protect the safety of the train. The driver is responsible for the safe operation of the train and the guard/conductor for the protection of the passengers. Guard/conductor’s must be fully trained in operational safety and route knowledge, including being able to secure the doors safely, protecting the train and acting in emergencies such as derailments or fire. Emergencies can also include if the driver is incapacitated for any reason, or if there is a failure of train safety systems. Guard/conductor’s also look out for and report hazards on or near the line and are trained to deal with problems on the track. The guard / conductor is also vital to ensuring passengers board and disembark trains safely and in assisting elderly and disabled passengers.
As well as the extensive areas of safety responsibility that guard/conductors’ have to undergo training and retraining for, they are also helping passengers and providing them with a better service. By checking tickets guard/conductors’ also give travel information and expert advice about the journey.
Like your parliamentary colleagues we know that passengers like having a uniformed member of staff on the train to make them feel safer about their journey (especially later at night) and to deter anti-social behaviour.
But GTR’s proposals for Driver Only Operation will mean the driver will be the only guaranteed member of staff on the train. Not only will this obviously affect passenger service and safety but passengers, especially on late night rural services will be more vulnerable to anti – social behaviour.
Like the decision by GTR last year to get rid of on board catering staff the reasoning behind these latest proposals is to cut costs and thereby increase the potential for even bigger profits to be extracted. To add insult to injury because this service is part operated by a subsidiary of French state railways passengers in France will ultimately benefit at the expense of passengers in the south of England.
It is simply unacceptable at a time of massive congestion and growing passenger numbers on trains that the driver is to be expected to drive the train whilst at the same time being responsible for passenger safety. Record and growing passenger numbers and revenues mean there is no economic case for removing the guard/conductors. Indeed with ever increasing passenger numbers and more problems caused by overcrowding and congestion on Southern services, not to forget the most expensive fares in Europe, passenger’s want and deserve more staff not less.
I attach more information on the important role the guard/conductor plays on the train and I would ask that you join with me in condemning these proposals and supporting our campaign to retain these essential skilled safety and operational roles. Please write to Charles Horton, Govia Thameslink Railway Limited, Go Ahead House, 26-28 Addiscombe Road, Croydon, and Surrey, CR9 5GA.