Driver only trains – Study shows it makes passengers less safe – Well that’s a surprise NOT

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station.

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station.

I have commented on this matter a number of times previously, mainly with regard to Merseytravel (the Labour-run Transport Committee of Liverpool City Region) trying not to say in public what we all think they are up to i.e. getting rid of guards on Merseyrail trains when the new trains/rolling stock is ordered.

Merseytravel logo

Here’s a press release from the RMT union on the matter and it is worth reading as the commentary is on a report funded by train operating companies.

Train company funded report exposes dangers of Driver Only Operation ‎but recommends ploughing on regardless

A report funded by the Train Operating Companies own safety body has warned that introducing Driver Only Operation, and sacking guards on train services, will increase risks to passengers, RMT can reveal today.

‎Incredibly, despite that admission, the report dismisses those risks and recommends that every guard should be sacked in order to cream off another £350 million in profits.

“Evaluating technological solutions to support driver only operation train dispatch” by the Train Operating Company (TOC’s) funded Railway Safety Standards Board (RSSB) warns that,‎

“DOO does not create additional undesired events but may increase the likelihood of an event occurring or increase the severity of its consequence.”

It goes on to say that “The risk level of each undesired event will vary according to platform features, rolling stock, driver behaviour and passenger behaviour and passenger flows.”

Yet despite the risk to passengers the report says the TOCs should sack guards on every train company. This will rake in £350 million over five years (see timetable below).

It concludes that “Analysis of the business case indicates that the expected payback time for national rollout under the same assumptions would be three years, and that the best estimate for return over 5 years would be £350m.”‎

Savings are to come directly from employing less staff to help passengers and by downgrading safety protections for passengers .

The report argues that “This can arise from employing fewer staff, and from replacing guards with cheaper non-safety critical on-train staff (NSCOS)” and that “Safety critical training for guards would no longer be required, which would reduce the training requirement from 12 weeks to 4 weeks for the second staff member on board”.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

“It is extraordinary that the rail industry’s own risk assessment body, funded by the train companies, can find on the one hand that Driver Only Operation is downright dangerous and on the other recommend ploughing on regardless in the name of profit. ‎This is a classic case of ‘who pays the piper calls the tune’.

“It is appalling that the RSSB can adopt this cavalier attitude and allow themselves to be wheeled out by a company like Govia Thameslink as cheerleaders for DOO. They are destroying their own credibility and making a mockery of their claim to be independent.”


Merseyrail – Driver only trains (No guards) – TUC puts more pressure on Labour-run Merseytravel

Merseytravel logo

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:-


Dear Liam

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.

Kind regards.

Yours sincerely

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.

Merseyrail – Train Guards under threat – Union steps up campaign

A Liverpool bound 507 EMU approaching the Crescent Road level crossing in Birkdale, Southport.

A Liverpool bound 507 EMU approaching the Crescent Road level crossing in Birkdale, Southport.

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Merseyrail's Kirkdale Motive Power Depot with Kirkdale Station in the background.

Merseyrail’s Kirkdale Motive Power Depot with Kirkdale Station in the background.

Folks I speak to want Merseyrail to retain guards on trains to aid safety. Women in particular are concerned about their removal. It seems many outside of the RMT union will be backing their campaign to keep the guards.

The big decision will be the one made by the Liverpool City Region and its Merseytravel Committee as they will specify whether the guards will stay or go.

RMT ‘Keep the guards’ campaign – Merseytravel responds

Readers of this blog may know that the RMT union has launched a ‘keep the guards’ campaign following it being suggested that the new fleet of trains for Merseyrail will be/could be driver only operation.

I have covered this issue previously as it is one which many see as being a negative step that does not need to be taken by Merseyrail, the private sector operator of Liverpool’s electrified local railway network or Merseytravel the public sector authority which oversees Merseyrail.

When Merseytravel were approached by Radio Merseyside below is how they responded following the launch of the RMT campaign to keep the guards on the Merseyrail network when new trains are introduced after 2020.

The statement provided to the radio station, which was read out on air, said that at this early stage no decisions had been taken into whether the new trains will be Driver Controlled Operated (DCO) – where the driver with the use of cameras and associated technology is responsible for the safe dispatch of the train rather than guards.

It was also highlighted that while Merseytravel will not be specifying that any new trains should be DCO, this method of dispatch has become increasingly commonplace in the UK (such as on the Tube in London and the Tyne and Wear Metro) and we do expect this may feature in the proposals put to us. It was stressed that Merseytravel are committed to maintaining a staff presence on a new fleet.

I have the feeling that this issue has a long way to run yet although Merseytravel could settle it now by simply saying that they will not be specifying driver only operation on the new trains. The ball or is that train seems to be firmly in Merseytravel’s court or is that siding.