Yes I know the ordering of these new trains for the Merseyrail franchise has been announced more times than even the building of the new Maghull North Station i.e. tens of times at least over goodness knows how many years!
However, another milestone was reached today with the Merseytravel Committee of the Liverpool City Region agreeing to actually pursue the purchase of them. So far so good and no one can be anything but pleased that some of the oldest railway rolling stock in the UK is going to be renewed.
HOWEVER, and its a big however, the new trains will be driver only operated i.e. there will be no train guards on them. Yes, the guards will be replaced by some form of customer service operative but I remain unconvinced that passenger safety will not be compromised.
Of course the current huge dispute surrounding the Southern Trains franchise is very much bound up in this guards issue too, although that franchise has massive problems anyway of the kind that Merseyrail does not have.
I have posted about this matter before and my last relevant posting is available via the link below:-
My fear is that cost cutting and passenger safety do not sit well together and I had hoped that Merseytravel would had taken the more cautious route with regard to the new trains for the Merseyrail franchise and openly stood out against the loss of train guards.
Here’s the BBC’s take on today’s events:-
Nice to see the TUC wading into this matter of public safety concerns. Here is the text of a letter sent by the TUC, by Lynn Collins, to Cllr. Liam Robinson the Chairperson of Merseytravel:-
New Merseyrail Rolling Stock – Driver Only Operation of Trains
I’m writing following the Annual Conference of the North West TUC which unanimously passed a resolution on the threat of removal of guards and the introduction of a Driver Only Operation in the North West.
During a very lively debate, delegates from many unions spoke in support of the resolution. Notably the Fire Brigades Union raised specific safety concerns in relation to DOO/DCO mode in the single bore underground sections of the Merseyrail Network. Both our Disabled Workers Forum, and our Women’s Committee also expressed their concerns in relation to access and safety.
I know John Tilley has written to you detailing the specific safety related issues, and I look forward to seeing your response to those concerns shared by all our unions.
I have offered my assistance to our rail unions in working with you to reach an agreement on a way forward that puts passenger safety and security at the heart of an integrated transport system for Liverpool City Region.
It will be interesting to see Merseytravel squirm over this issue and you can bet your bottom Dollar they will be being kept under significant pressure not to remove train guards when they order the new trains for Merseyrail.