Public Transport Complaints on Merseyside – This is what to do

Do you ever have a gripe with a train or bus operator? Well if you do Merseytravel (our local public sector transport committee) have an e-mail address via which you can make your views/concerns known.

Comments or complaints relating to a particular bus service or specific transport related matter should be directed to Merseytravel’s comments system;

comments@merseytravel.gov.uk

It will then, I am told, be referred to the appropriate Merseytravel department or commercial operator.

With thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting

New Maghull North Station due to open May 2018

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station. Photo taken looking north from School Lane road bridge. The former Moss Side Hospital site is to the right and Mersey Avenue to the left.

I have been chasing up the latest position with regard to the Maghull’s 2nd railway station and with the help of Merseytravel Committee member John Dodd. I can supply the following information which has been provided to John by Merseytravel.

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The contractor for the Maghull North station began the mobilisation stage for the station works on Monday 4 September.

Work has also begun on the de-vegetation of the railway cutting within the existing Network Rail trackside boundary. An ecologist is on site in case there are any particular issues that are found as the staff work their way in to the undergrowth.

Merseytravel will be meeting with Network Rail on Friday [8th September] and will discuss further details of the early stages of the construction works.

Opening of the railway station is still planned for May 2018 when the new summer timetable starts. At this stage it is not intended to rework the Maghull Circulars [buses], some of which provide a service from the existing station and pass the site of the new station.

However there will be further bus service reviews in time to come and the services will be looked at with knowledge of the new station, the Persimmon Homes development currently underway (Poppy Fields) and any proposals for development on the lands east of Maghull.

With thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting

This photo shows the view from the Park Lane overbridge looking south towards the School Lane overbridge from where the previous photo was taken. The new station will be close to the School Lane bridge.

Maghull North Station – So which local buses will serve the station when it opens?

Site for the new Maghull North Railway Station. Photo taken looking north from School Lane road bridge. The former Moss Side Hospital site is to the right and Mersey Avenue to the left.

This is a question that I know is in the minds of local people, indeed I have been asked as a Lydiate councillor whether I know the answer to it. It also came up as part of a wider discussion at the last Lydiate Parish Council meeting.

I thought it was time to see how far Merseytravel had got with their thinking/planning regarding this matter.

I recall that when the public exhibition about the new station was held at Maghull Town Hall some time ago the officials present were then unable to answer questions about which bus services would serve the station when it opens in 2018.

And this is what Merseytravel have told me:-

‘The 32/33 are circular services that will provide access to the new station during the off peak and the 34 during the peak. The 133 will also serve the station operating all day Monday to Saturday.’

I was surprised to note that presently the 31/31A circular bus which reaches out into Lydiate seems not to be down to call at the new station. I will be taking this up as obviously Maghull North Station is nearer to Lydiate than the present Maghull Station.

Clearly the opening of the new station will lead to some bus route/timetable changes to accommodate it and I’m sure we will be made aware of such changes nearer the opening.

As I wrote this posting building work on the station had yet to start.

With thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for his assistance with this posting

Merseyrail – RMT Guards Dispute – Talks collapse as employer rejects compromise says union

Below is the press release from the train guard’s union RMT following the collapse of talks which were aimed at finding a solution to the bitter dispute on Merseyrail over the hugely controversial removal of guards from local trains.

I have covered this matter many times before. My last posting on this subject can be accessed via the link below:-

Merseyrail’s new Stadler Trains, to be delivered in a couple of years time, are at the heart of this industrial dispute about driver only operated trains.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/03/18/merseyrail-so-how-many-customer-service-staff-will-replace-the-train-guards-under-merseytravels-plans/

Merseyrail guards talks collapse as company rejects compromise

TALKS AIMED at ending the Merseyrail guards’ dispute collapsed today when the company flatly refused to discuss RMT’s compromise proposal.

The union had refrained from calling more strike action on Merseyrail to coincide with strikes in separate disputes at Arriva Rail North and Virgin East Coast, in order to give the talks a fair wind.

But RMT’s offer to put the contentious issue of train despatch and door operation into a joint safety working-group was rejected out of hand by Merseyrail bosses, who know that the Merseyside public will be left to pick up the bill for the dispute, thanks to a reimbursement clause hidden in their contract.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“We held off from calling further strike action on Merseyrail to give these talks a chance, but our good faith has been thrown straight back in our faces and once more all they wanted to discuss was the terms of our surrender.”

“Our negotiating team put forward a compromise that would have allowed us to talk about guaranteeing a second safety-critical crew member aboard every train separate to the issue of train despatch and door control.

“We offered to accept recommendations on despatch and door control from a safety working group that would include the company, the unions, the manufacturers and the safety agencies, if Merseyrail accepted the principle of a second safety-critical crew-member on every train.”

Regional Organiser John Tilley, who led the RMT negotiating team, said:

“It is difficult to understand why Merseyrail invited us to talks in the first place, as they have not budged even a fraction of an inch.

“Their invitation said that they wanted to see an end to the dispute, but when we got round the table there was still nothing on it but the complete abolition of Merseyrail guards.

“Our proposal would have taken the issue of who opens the doors out of the talks altogether, but the company, which had previously tried to hide behind the politicians, even said it would be disappointed if the new Metro Mayor and city-region authorities ordered a rethink

“That is not just another stab in the back for our members, but a total insult to the Merseyside public who have overwhelmingly supported the campaign to keep guards on Merseyrail.

“We have tried our damnedest to reach a settlement, but Merseyrail’s intransigence leaves us with no alternative but to return to the picket lines.”

I wonder how Merseyrail and their political masters on Labour-run Merseytravel will respond? After all it was the political decision made by Merseytravel to confirm an order for new trains without the need for them to be operated with train guards that signaled (sorry could not resist that one) the start of this dispute.

With thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting

Merseyrail – So how many Customer Service staff will replace the Train Guards under Merseytravel’s plans?

Readers of this blog site will know that I have been trying to get behind the media stories regarding the the loss of train guards on Merseyrail when new driver only operated trains are delivered in around 3 years time.

I think that one reason for the move to guardless trains is to cut costs and a second is to address issues associated with accidents involving passengers. You takes your pick but I think the majority of us will probably think that the major influencing factor is likely to be money.

The other day, before the guards strike of Monday 13th March, I heard an RMT Trade Union representative say (during a TV interview) something along the lines of there would only be around 25% of Merseyrail trains where there will be a second member of staff on board after the new guardless trains are brought in. That seemed very low to me based on what I thought I had heard from organisations like Merseytravel. I thought they were indicating far more than that. It was time to try to get an explanation from Merseytravel so I asked Merseytravel Committee member Cllr. John Dodd to pursue this for me. He did and this is what came back from Merseytravel by way of an explanation:-

We fully recognise that there are some people who will be reassured by a second member of staff on a train and under the new arrangements, with around 60 dedicated on-board customer service staff targeted at key locations and times such as at night and during events, will substantially improve the visibility of on-board staff. There will continue to be revenue protection, security and cleaning staff on trains as there is today, as well as staffing retained at stations- stations that are staffed first to last train, and with passengers only ever around three minutes on average from a station.

While you can roughly calculate that 60 staff is around 25% of the current guards numbers, this doesn’t reflect increased customer interaction the new on-board staff will have. The current guards spend 10% of their time, on average, in the saloon engaging with passengers, around 60 staff who spend 100% of their time in the train saloon, will increase visibility of staff for customers.

So the 25% quoted by the RMT rep is about right but lets do the rough math. Around 240 guards are presently spending 10% of their time engaging with passengers on Merseyrail. This will be replaced by 60 staff spending 100% of the time engaging with passengers. So what Merseytravel are, I assume, trying to say is that there will be more on-board engagement with passengers under the new system.

But remember that Merseytravel are also saying this (see above) 60 dedicated on-board customer service staff targeted at key locations and times such as at night and during events, will substantially improve the visibility of on-board staff.

So the 60 customer service staff will seemingly not all be on the trains but at key locations (stations?), at night and during events. And of course they will presumably be working some form of shift pattern, have holidays and be ill so the number available every day and per train will actually be…..? Is this then, at least in part, an extension of the Customer Service staff we presently see particularly at night on Liverpool Central Station?

Well I don’t know about you but I have still not seen through the fog of this dispute and the devil will be in the detail of the Merseytravel plans as is always the case with industrial disputes. On thing I am pretty sure about though is that industrial relations seem to have been set back a long way by what Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are promoting and that can’t surely be in interests of the travelling public.

Merseyrail – RMT Guards vote for Industrial Action

The present Merseyrail rolling stock (Class 507/8 EMU’s) at Southport Station.

Below is the RMT Union notice which was sent to members of the Merseytravel Committee today:-

RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that members have voted overwhelmingly for both strike action and action short of a strike in a ballot for industrial action after Merseyrail’s continued failure to provide cast iron assurances around the future of the safety critical role of the guard.

Action has by RMT’s Merseyrail guards and drivers has been confirmed as follows: Members not to book on for any shifts between 0001hrs and 23.59 hrs on Monday 13th March. In addition members will not work any rest days from 00.01 hrs on Tuesday 7th March indefinitely.

81.8% of members voted for strike action with 93.5% backing action short of a strike.

In addition, the union is kick starting a renewed campaign, involving the general public and targeting politicians across the area served by Merseyrail, aimed at maximising political and public support for RMT’s fight for a guaranteed guard on the company’s services.

RMT General secretary Mick Cash said:

“This ballot result sends out the clearest possible message to Merseyrail, Merseytravel and politicians across the area that RMT is prepared to stand up and fight for public safety and the guard guarantee. The company now has the best part of two weeks to sit down with us, address the core issues at the heart of this dispute and negotiate a settlement before the action commences.

“The union’s position on Driver Only Operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train. It is the failure of Merseyrail to give guarantees on those basic principles that has led to the current dispute and the campaign of industrial action.

“RMT asked Merseyrail to give the union assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services. We set out clear deadlines giving the company ample time to give those assurances but the company have flatly refused to consider a guarantee of a second safety critical person on the new trains”.

“This dispute, and the industrial action announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened and to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit. The blame for the industrial action, and the disruption it will cause, lies solely at the door of Merseyrail and those who are happy to put private profits before public safety.

“Merseyrail are also completely ignoring the clear wishes of their own passengers, who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of Driver Only Operated trains on their network. That pig-headed attitude has forced the union’s hand and the idea that we would compromise on the fundamental issue of rail safety is absurd. The union remains available for meaningful talks and we would expect Merseyrail to take up that offer as a matter of urgency.”

I can’t say that this has come as any surprise at all as Merseytravel, the public sector body that controls the Merseyrail Train Franchise, all but invited the strike in my view by choosing to purchase new trains which will be DOO – Driver Only Operated.

Like many I view this move towards taking away train guards with great scepticism as I don’t think Merseytravel have convinced anyone so far that it will actually lead to a safer local rail network for Merseyside. It does not help that Merseytravel seem to have differing answers to the question why they have decided to go down the route of Driver Only Operation. But of course I also view with horror the prospect of an industrial dispute and railway strikes such as that which is presently ongoing in the South East of England over this very issue.

I suspect this dispute has a long way to run and the victims of it will be the travelling public and Merseyrail staff it seems.

My thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting.