Merseyrail – RMT Dispute over loss of Guards, strikes and Jeremy

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

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43259075

The BBC has an article about the next round of strike action on its web site – see link above

Oh no you might say Robertson’s banging on about those interminable railway strikes again. Well yes he is but from Jeremy’s perspective! You see a couple of days ago I saw a tweet from JC which said this:-

‘This @RMTunion film shows why it is essential to keep guards on our trains. Please share and support this important campaign. #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain’

Well no problem with the tweet in itself BUT just hang on a minute Jeremy, why did Labour-run Merseytravel order new trains for Merseyrail that are intended to be run without train guards then? The RMT are right about Keeping the guards, in my view, but Labour is complicit in the guards getting axed here on Merseyside.

May I suggest to Jeremy that he tells his comrades on Merseyside that the order for trains meant to run without guards needs to be revised so that they run with train guards, then his Merseyside chums will no longer be embarrassing him.

Merseytravel – Why are they getting off scot-free over RMT train guards dispute because they caused it?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mcdonalds-arriva-struck-deals-striking-14120598

The Liverpool Echo has details of the forthcoming Merseyrail strike days via the article linked above

So the Merseyrail train guards dispute rumbles on with no sign of a resolution. At face value it’s the RMT Union against Merseyrail, the private sector franchise operator of trains on Merseyside. But hang on that’s far too simplistic an assessment of the dispute. Why? Because the genesis of the dispute is firmly within the hands of Merseytravel the public sector transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region.

It was Merseytravel who agreed to purchase new trains that can/will run without train guards not Merseyrail

This simple fact seems to have been lost for reasons I can’t quite get my head around. Yes Merseyrail have to do what Merseytravel tells them to do so they are pursuing the dispute in effect on behalf of Merseytravel. That being the case why is it not Merseytravel under pressure?

Answers on a postcard……..

Note – My letter on this subject was published in the Aintree & Maghull Champion Newspaper on 10th January

Driver only operation of trains – Have ASLEF shafted fellow trade union RMT?

Readers of this blog site will know I have been keeping a close eye on Driver Only Operation (DOO) of trains, with particular reference to the industrial dispute involving franchise operator Merseyrail and the RMT union where removal of train guards is planned when new Stadler rolling stock is delivered in a couple of years time.

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

In case you are not up to speed a brief recap – Merseytravel the transport committee of the Liverpool City Region (a public sector body) decided to accept a tender for new trains that can/will run without train guards. Unsurprisingly, the RMT union which represents train guards said we are not having that. Merseytravel in effect then passed the dispute, which they had created, onto Merseyrail the private sector franchise operator of trains on Merseyside – a sort this out, we are washing our hands of it type situation if ever I saw one. So Merseyrail find themselves in dispute with their own train guards union over a matter (that they had little say in?) but one that they have to accept and in effect justify and promote! The dispute is ongoing with little sign of a solution so far despite many Merseyrail RMT strike days.

So what’s ASLEF got to do with this dispute. Well they represent train drivers and on the infamous Southern rail franchise where the most significant dispute over DOO has been taking place over a long time period a settlement has recently been reached with ASLEF. It in effect buys them out of the dispute down on Southern. And buys them out could seemingly not be a more appropriate phrase as they, the train drivers, have gained a 28.5% pay rise over 3 years! What’s more we are told that other than in exceptional circumstances a second safety trained member of staff (an On Board Supervisor or OBS) will be on board all Southern trains – is that not all but alternative speak for a train guard?

Ironically, the Southern dispute was being propped up by the Department for Transport who were seemingly out to break trade union refusal to accept more DOO trains. Well it’s cost the DfT quite a few bob in the end and train guards with a different name but doing a remarkably similar job!

The RMT union though are far from happy, not least with their comrades in ASLEF who they seem to see as having taken the King’s Shilling so to speak.

So how will the dispute resolution on Southern affect Merseyrail? Well you can bet the RMT are probably more motivated to fight on than they were before, if their members will continue to back prolonged strike action. The guards and indeed RMT seem to be holding the public support they have had since the dispute started as rail users, particularly female ones, want to keep an on-board second person for customer safety reasons. Merseyrail are only offering this facility on some trains, where problems and disorder are more likely as far as I can see. On that basis resolution of the dispute would seem to hang on Merseyrail extending the second on-board member of staff to all trains?

As a lifelong trade unionist seeing ASLEF and the RMT being caught in a divide and rule type situation is unfortunate. However, sadly trade unions do have the ability to act in very selfish ways that they usually claim to be very much opposed to and it seems that the old adage ‘everyone has their price’ still applies.

So Merseytravel/Merseyrail. Let’s bring this dispute to an end. Time to back off and put second on-board safety critical member of staff on every one of your new Stadler trains and you can call them whatever you like so long as they look and act like train guards.

Merseyrail – News about that new fleet of Stadler trains

The following is from a Merseytravel press release

Ground work has started on the new state-of-the-art depot at Kirkdale where all maintenance work for the new Merseyrail trains, due to be introduced in 2020, will take place.

Warrington-based BAM Nuttall are currently undertaking enabling works after being awarded the contract by Stadler Rail Services, who will be manufacturing and maintaining the new fleet.

Preliminary work is due to start in October, with the depot build set to be complete by 2019, in time for the arrival of new trains for testing.

Features of the new depot will include:

· The creation of a maintenance facility for the new state-of-the-art Stadler trains.

· A driving cab simulator, including a full-size mock-up of a driver’s cab, facilities for a link between the trainer and trainee and a lecture theatre for people to observe the training.

· A new train washing facility.

· Stabling capacity for up to 30 trains.

· New offices and welfare facilities for the maintenance workforce.

Meanwhile, the existing Birkenhead depot will remain essential to operations, with plans for a second new train washing facility. Detailed plans are still being developed for this site.

Thomas Zweifel, Programme Director & Deputy CEO UK for Stadler said:

“Stadler will implement in the Kirkdale depot its state-of-the-art technology and maintenance expertise. The significant local investment and up-skilling of local workforce are strengthening the Merseyside industrial sector and will overall result in a positive economic impact. Stadler is excited to be involved in this project that will see new trains on the Merseyrail network in 2020.

David Powell, Merseytravel’s programme director for the new trains said:

“The new depot at Kirkdale and the refurbished depot at Birkenhead North will be essential in keeping our new trains reliable, clean and serving the Liverpool City Region well. The start of the ground works at Kirkdale is an exciting milestone – the first real visible sign that these new state-of-the-art trains are coming.”

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, added:

“The start of the work to overhaul Kirkdale depot is another step along the way to transform the Merseyrail network, moving us a stage closer to the introduction of new trains. We welcome this much needed upgrade, which will take the depot into the 21st century, equipped to maintain the trains to a very high standard.”

Added Paul Abraham, project manager for BAM Nuttall:

“‘We have been working collaboratively with Stadler during the tender stage of this exciting programme. From our Warrington office we have been able to provide locally based staff to support the bid and develop the programme. We will continue with this locally based approach throughout the delivery phase and also provide opportunity for our northern based supply chain. We look forward to delivering this key piece of infrastructure for Stadler and Merseytravel and supporting the local economy’

For more information about the new trains visit www.merseytravel.gov.uk/newtrains

Notes:- In February 2017, Stadler signed contracts to manufacture and maintain a new fleet of 52 metro trains for the Liverpool City Region.

The total value of the agreements, including the depot construction works, amounts to £700 million.

The deal also includes an option clause for the production and maintenance of an additional 60 units, further increasing the total value of the contracts if exercised.

With the maintenance services and depot construction works, it is expected that around two thirds of the total contract value will be invested by Stadler into the UK and the economy of the Liverpool City Region and the wider North West.

Stadler runs maintenance operations in 16 countries worldwide.

The new fleet of trains will be in full service by 2021.

Blog editor’s note:- Of course much of this good news is still dependent on the resolution of the present industrial dispute between the RMT Union and Merseyrail over the new trains running without train guards. The industrial action, which seems to have the support of many of the travelling public on Merseyside, will seemingly continue for the foreseeable future as the dispute is presently showing little if any sign of being successfully resolved. The RMT campaign is called ‘Keep the Guards’

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

Merseytravel respond to a customer’s concerns about the removal of Guards from the new Merseyrail trains fleet

A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression

Merseyrail passenger Jen Robertson has recently raised concerns about the removal of train guards from the new fleet of Stadler trains on order for this rail franchise. The response to her concerns from Merseytravel is below.*

*****

Thank you for your e-mail about the new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network.

As you may be aware, a decision was made on the 16th December 2016 by elected councillors and council leaders of the Merseytravel Committee and the Combined Authority in the Liverpool City Region, to approve the purchase of a new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network to replace the current life expired fleet, some of which are nearly 40 years old. These trains will be owned by the city region and operated by Merseyrail. Merseyrail will not gain financially from the new trains.

I was sorry to learn of your concerns around the new trains, which we believe will deliver a quicker, safer and more reliable rail service to our customers in the future. I can assure you that you will continue to see our staff as you travel across the network, including a new team of on-board colleagues that will play a key role in supporting our customers. The trains themselves will be safer with facilities like CCTV, emergency intercoms to summon assistance and clear lines of sight throughout the length of the vehicle to reduce blind spots with the potential for crime/antisocial behaviour. Please be assured we do fully understand yours and other customers concerns, and will continue to work to make our system ever safer. We are also working very closely with our colleagues to resolve the ongoing dispute.

Merseytravel have worked extensively with customers during the development of the proposals for the new trains, including carrying out dedicated workshops with members of the local community, co-ordinated by the independent national passenger organisation, Transport Focus. The workshops have directly supported the development of the design of the trains which were approved the Combined Authority in December.

I hope this further information helps to reassure you that the new trains will offer a safer and much improved customer experience for passengers on our network in the future. Please do contact me again if you wish to discuss this any more.

*****

Of course this is just one side of the story, a story which is leading to a great deal of industrial unrest in the rail industry both here on Merseyside and across other rail franchises too where the guards are being removed.

For me the feeling that the guards are being removed more for cost cutting purposes than anything else is troubling. I am also unsure as to how a couple of recent accidents on Merseyrail, where guards have seemingly been blamed for passenger injury, plays into the decision to removed guards. The same decision making process will still need to be made by the driver when the guards are removed so how can an already busy driver be better at making such decisions than a guard?

I remain troubled by the removal of guards from trains.

* Merseyrail is the private sector company which runs the franchise in the Greater Merseyside area.

Merseytravel is the public sector Committee of the Liverpool City Region which controls the franchise.

Merseyrail – Who pays industrial action costs? You may be surprised by the answer from the RMT union

Readers of this blog site will know that I have been keeping a close eye on the industrial dispute between the RMT union and Merseyrail/Merseytravel which has been caused by Merseytravel’s decision to confirm an order for new trains that are intended to be run without train guards.

One issue which I have not covered so far is who pays for the strikes. What I mean is who pays financial compensation to Merseyrail (the private sector train operating company) because they are unable to run a full train service on strike days? Here’s an explanation from the RMT union. My understanding is that Merseyrail agrees that this is the case but if I have it wrong please let me know.

A 507/508 EMU Merseyrail unit at Crescent Road level crossing – Birkdale, Southport.

RMT Press Office:

Merseyside tax payers and passengers to foot bill for Merseyrail revenue loss during Guard strikes.

RAIL UNION RMT today exposes documents which reveal that Merseyside tax payers and passengers are to foot the bill for revenue loss as a result of strike action on Merseyrail over plans to remove Guards from trains.

Dutch state owned operator Merseyrail will not lose a penny thanks to a deal signed with Liverpool politicians.

Instead, astonishingly, a clause in the agreement between Merseyrail and the controlling transport authority Merseytravel has shown that Merseyrail – which is which is also owned by Corporate giant SERCO – are protected from any revenue loss caused by industrial action.

The “Force Majeure” clause in the agreement says:

“The Operator shall not be responsible for any failure to perform its obligations …. to the extent that, such failure is caused by or is due to any Force Majeure Event…

“and such an event includes

“any strike or other industrial action by any or all of the employees of the Operator.”

The latest revelation in what is fast becoming a Merseytravel new trains’ scandal comes on top of the news that the profit share agreement signed by Merseytravel means Merseyrail are taking up to a quarter of all passenger fares in profits while not paying a penny for the new trains.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“First, we learn that Liverpool’s politicians signed a deal with Merseyrail that allows the company to skim a quarter of passenger fares in profit whilst paying nothing for new trains and instead getting rid of train guards.”

“Now we find out that another part of the deal they have signed is that Merseyrail are protected from any losses as a result of industrial action and instead hard pressed Merseyside tax payers and passengers will have to pay for Merseyrail’s war on our Guards.”

“There is a growing stench of scandal surrounding the new Merseyrail trains in which the fare payer loses out, the taxpayer lose money, passengers lose the protection of train guards, guards lose their jobs and the only winner is Dutch owned Merseyrail”

“We are calling for an immediate inquiry into this whole murky deal”

Ends

Notes
The Force Majeure clause is Clause 5.4 and can be found on pages 55 – 57 of the agreement.

So lets get this straight, Merseytravel the Labour-run public sector body orders trains without guards which causes this dispute. Then public money is used to compensate Merseyrail, the private sector train operating company, who will lose business due to the industrial action. So that’s how public money is spent then?……

With thanks to Cliff Mainey for the lead to this posting.