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

Merseyrail’s RMT dispute and the two Mayors as Labour starts to duff itself up over DOO

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.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/national-union-boss-launches-stinging-14010950

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site

Yes OK it’s an issue I have covered many, many times in recent months but this is a new angle. It shows how figures within the Labour Party are at odds with each other over the Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains that are coming to the Merseyrail network with the new Stadler rolling stock.

In essence the Echo article is one where the RMT union is accusing the two Labour Mayors of Liverpool (Joe Anderson) and Liverpool City Region (Steve Rotherham) of siding with private sector train operating company Merseyrail when the RMT quite obviously feels the Mayors should be siding with RMT.

Well you might say, that’s a statement of the blinding obvious but hang on a minute. I’ve pointed out before that in reality Merseyrail are only in effect a front for this dispute as it was created by Merseytravel the public sector transport committee of the Liverpool City Region which has a huge Labour majority. It was Merseytravel who approved the purchase of the new Stadler trains which can/will run without train guards. Merseyrail were simply told to get on with it after Merseytravel had thrown the fire cracker into their relationship with the RMT guards that Merseyrail employ. Yes Merseyrail have been loyal and taken on the dispute but let’s not forget where the dispute with RMT was created – at Merseytravel.

So you could say Labour backs DOO on Merseytravel Committee, RMT a Labour supporting union opposes DOO and our two Labour Mayors are caught in the middle being in effect accused by the RMT of backing DOO by the back door.

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.

Public Transport on Merseyside – Are we facing a winter of discontent?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bus-train-strikes-hit-liverpool-13853799

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site about the ongoing Merseyrail and the separate Arriva buses strikes that are hitting the Liverpool City Region – See link above

The Arriva buses strike is over pay and the Liverpool Echo article below tries to pin down what Arriva drivers are paid:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/how-much-bus-drivers-liverpool-13776304

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.

The Merseyrail strikes are of course over the next generation of Merseyrail trains being run without Train Guards. A decision taken by Merseytravel (the public sector Transport Committee for the Liverpool City Region) not by Merseyrail who employ the guards.

Public support for the RMT union’s ‘Keep the Guards’ campaign seems to be holding up but I’m not sure that buses are held in the same affection as trains so life may be tougher for Unite and GMB unions who are fighting for pay rises. I guess Arriva buses passengers who have not had a pay rise themselves in many a year may be reluctant to stand with the Arriva staff who are striking. But on the other hand if workers do not fight for pay rises who will?

Whether we are entering a ‘winter of discontent’ scenario here on Merseyside with regard to public transport is yet to be seen but things are presently not looking good and I say that having been a trade union officer virtually all my working life.

Merseyrail – RMT Guards Dispute – What the Liverpool City Region Mayor thinks

A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression

I recently contacted Steve Rotherham the Liverpool City Region Mayor about this dispute and here is his response:-

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail me about the issue of Train Safety.

Can I say that this is a dispute between Merseyrail and the RMT Union.

I am happy to use whatever influence I have to try and settle the matter but I am unable to instruct either party to come to an agreement. The contract for new rolling stock was signed prior to my election and I respect that decision.

The contract for over £460m of investment in new rolling stock, means our trains will be the most technologically advanced trains in the country. The business case was predicated on the driver having responsibility for opening and closing doors.

I too hope that a settlement can be reached asap as we need stability in our transport systems throughout the Liverpool City Region and we would not wish to imperil any investment in the future.

I have stated publically and in private to the RMT Union leaders that my door is open should they wish to meet to progress the issue and work to find an agreeable solution to the current impasse.

Yours sincerely

Steve Rotheram

Metro Mayor

Whilst Steve Rotherham is right in saying that the dispute is between Merseyrail and the RMT Trade Union my clear understanding is that the dispute was in reality created by Merseytravel, the public sector Transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region. By this I mean that it was Merseytravel who ordered the new fleet of Stadler trains which are intended to be run without train guards.

Merseyrail, the private sector train operating company, could be said to be in a dispute that is not of their own making. They may well be fronting up like they are up fight with the RMT Union but did they have any choice in reality other than to do battle with the RMT? My view is no they did not have any choice because the politicians who sit on the Merseytravel Committee dropped them right in it when they decided to axe train guards on the new fleet of trains.

This still looks to me like a dispute created by politicians but left to the private sector rail operator to fight.

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