Train Guards – No not another rant about their proposed loss on Merseyrail but an amusing aside

Click on the link above to see the video

Yes I realise that the youtube video is in fact an advert but have a go and watch it; it will make you smile.

And it reminds me of the train guard who used to work on the Liverpool – Southport Line and who would make amusing announcements, read out a bit of news etc. He was, I thought, a one off but maybe not. It goes back a few years now but I also recall that the Merseyrail franchise operator of the day tried to have him shut up but passengers jumped to his defence.

With thanks to Keith for the lead to this posting

Merseyrail – So just why has public sector body Merseytravel decided there will be no Guards on trains?

I have been pondering about the recent announcement that the new Merseyrail trains will operate without train guards yet the more I read about the project the less clear the answers become.

Take the latest issue of RAIL magazine, which leads on the £460m fleet renewal. It quotes two significant things.

Firstly it says ‘It’s implementation [ i.e. no guards on the new trains] was also a key recommendation made by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, following a fatal incident at James Street Station in 2011 that resulted in the conviction of a train guard for manslaughter by gross negligence.’

Now then I think it fair to say that many folk were very uncomfortable with the guard referred to above carrying the can for that accident. I previously blogged about it and a later similar incident:-

Of course the clear implication of this is that trains will be safer without guards. Now how can that be?

But then in the same RAIL article the magazine quotes the Chairman of the Merseytravel Committee saying ‘In an idea world we’d like to have a second member of staff [a train guard?] on every train, but there aren’t resources to do that.’

Now then, does this second quote not make it seem that money was at least a significant deciding factor? Well that’s how it reads to me for what my opinion is worth.

But aren’t the guards are already there doing the job? On that basis keeping them in that job would not increase the pay bill at all surely.

Are we to surmise then that, what may be the case is that, the savings from taking away the train guards are being used to help pay for the new trains?

This feels like wading through mud to me but the bottom line is how will a train without a train guard be safer or at least as safe as one with one? And I come back to a question I have asked before. What will a driver do when he/she is responsible for the passengers on a train (and I mean specifically here those who are acting dangerously to themselves and others) as well as driving the train?

Ignoring the high profile politics of this issue (as presently highlighted by the Southern Trains dispute, which is fundamentally about the same issue) this is about safety and the powers that be need to try to convince us all that trains without guards will be at least as safe as those with guards. I for one will need a lot of convincing.

And finally, its no surprise at all that the RMT is now balloting its members for industrial action over the loss of train guards on Merseyrail. Well Merseytravel/Merseyrail you started this dispute, how are you going to end it?

Merseyrail comes top in “Which?” Customer Satisfaction survey

Merseyrail Class 508 EMU at Maghull Station

Merseyrail Class 508 EMU at Maghull Station

Merseyrail has once again topped the Which?’s annual train survey, securing 72 per cent for overall satisfaction. This is the second time that the operator has scooped the highest score in this poll.

The survey comprises eight categories (the eighth category is toilets, which does not apply to Merseyrail) with a maximum of five stars awarded in each. Merseyrail was awarded the top ‘five star’ rating in a number of categories including reliability, frequency and reported punctuality.

Nice to know that our local rail network is doing so well but don’t tell our Jen. You can guarantee if she goes near Merseyrail she will have a poor experience in one way or another.

BTW, what happens if the guards go on strike over the new trains because they will not have guards on them? That’s not going to do Merseyrail’s performance stats any good at all, now is it.

With thanks to John Dodd for the lead to this posting

Merseytravel & Merseyrail – Have ‘travel’ dropped ‘rail’ in it?’


I was taken by a short article in a recent Merseytravel staff briefing which reads:-

RMT Union story

We received a number of enquiries regarding the RMT announcement regarding a dispute with Merseyrail in relation to new trains which were directed to Merseyrail who issued a statement. This was picked up by several local and regional media including the Liverpool Echo.

Firstly lets get a few explanations in

The railway unions are ASLEF and RMT

The public transport body for the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside is Merseytravel which is a Committee of the Liverpool City Region. The Liverpool City Region is presently run by the leaders of the 6 local authorities across Merseyside. These leaders in turn nominate councillors to sit on the Merseytravel Committee.

The current private sector operator of the trains on the Merseyrail 3rd rail electrified suburban network is unsurprisingly called Merseyrail.It has a franchise agreement to run the Merseyrail network until 2028 if memory serves. They were awarded that franchise by Merseytravel.

There is every reason to think that those who are not close to the goings on of the rail industry on Merseyside will confuse and transpose the names Merseytravel and Merseyrail. Indeed, the similar names must lead to confusion as to who is responsible for what. That may of course be convenient for some?

Now back to the reason for this posting. You see the quote above from the Merseytravel staff briefing is revealing as in effect the public transport body for our area is seemingly saying to the press don’t ask us about the operation of the new trains we have just ordered ask Merseyrail the operator of the trains.

But just hang on a minute who ordered the new trains? Yes you’ve guessed correctly it is Merseytravel. And who chose to select a bidder to build the trains – again Merseytravel. So who decided that the new trains would be DOO (Driver Only Operation) i.e. No train Guard? Well to me it must be Merseytravel yet again. It was they who put out the tender for the building of the trains, they who selected the winning bidder (Swiss firm Stadler) and they who will own trains that are not intended to run with Train Guards.

On that basis why are Merseytravel saying that they are telling the media to speak to Merseyrail about the potential for an industrial dispute over the removal of Train Guards? Yes, Merseyrail will be the employer which the unions will be legally in dispute with but the creation of that dispute, should it get to that point, will have been via the decision making of the public sector body Merseytravel!

Work that one out! And is this ‘arrangement’ not very similar to what is going on with the Southern Rail dispute presently i.e. the public sector (in Southern’s case the Department for Transport) making decisions that a private sector operator then has to implement whilst the public sector hands are washed of it all?

My thanks to Phil for the thoughts behind this particular posting.

BTW, just a thought. It’s not so long ago that there was a big fuss about new trains being built abroad instead of in the UK. I have not heard a peep about Merseyrail’s new trains being Swiss built. And is this not even more odd now we have as a nation confirmed our wish (not mine I would add!) to be insular and inward facing? As I say just a thought.

Merseyrail to get new trains BUT there will be no guards on them!

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:-

Merseyrail – Labour-run Merseytravel Committee needs to be clear what they are looking for in terms of guards on new train fleet

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

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

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

I have blogged previously about the worrying potential loss of train guards once the new fleet of Merseyrail trains is introduced and agree with the RMT union campaign to keep train guards for passenger safety reasons.

My concern all along has been that Labour-run Merseytravel have been unwilling to say whether they are specifying guards on the new trains or not and it seems they are still unwilling to come off the political fence they have chosen to sit on.

This quote from the Echo article is telling:-

But a spokeswoman for the travel body said it could not reveal whether bidders to run the service were proposing driver-only trains or not, citing commercial confidentiality laws.

Surely it was up to Merseytravel to specify that it did want the new fleet of trains with a guard facility on them then all bidders to build the trains would have included such in their bids. Why has Merseytravel seemingly left this crucial decision in the hands of the train builders to decide? This smacks, to me at least, of the Transport Committee abdicating responsibility.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-