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 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

Train Guards – Have Merseytravel (who are not even the employer) ‘signalled’ a rail dispute with RMT?

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

I covered this issue quite a bit in that terrible year of 2016 and the end result of, in effect, ignoring the concerns expressed by the rail trade unions and indeed concerned rail passengers seems to be coming to pass in 2017.

This is what the new Merseyrail trains could look like when delivered but they are already the cause of great concern at being DOO (Driver Only Operation).

This is what the new Merseyrail trains could look like when delivered but they are already the cause of great concern at being DOO (Driver Only Operation).

Having followed developments regarding the potential for removing train guards from the new Merseyrail rolling stock I must say that this is an industrial dispute just waiting to happen. Or, how to handle a sensitive industrial relations issue – NOT.

I spent 30 years of my working life as a trade union officer and you could see some disputes coming a mile off. They usually followed a period of poor industrial relations where the union and the views of its members were being all but ignored.

The history of British industrial relations going back generations teaches us that ignoring the concerns expressed by trade unions virtually always leads in the end to damaging disputes which could in many cases have been avoided via meaningful dialogue between the employer and the appropriate trade unions. Yet we never seem to learn and keep on rehearsing the same poor workplace practices over and over again!

I am certainly in the camp of those who look at the loss of train guards on Merseyrail and elsewhere with great concern and there are many other rail users/passengers who hold similar concerns.

Why have Merseytravel/Merseyrail* not tried to convince the travelling public as to why they think they will be safer without train guards? And why have they not had an open public debate before ordering new trains which are meant to operate without guards?

If the travelling public are concerned and feel like they have not been included in the debate how on earth do the professional railway staff and their trade unions feel? I think we know that the unions are very upset and are openly talking about a dispute that could lead to strike action. And who seems to have waved the red railway danger flag for a dispute? It seems to me that it has been waved at the unions not by them.

I have often despaired at industrial relations in the UK and this mess up looks like yet another dispute that could have been avoided. It’s not as if the hugely damaging industrial action on the failing Southern Rail franchise could be forgotten; it’s happening right now and at least in part over the very same issue!

* Merseytravel is the public sector body which delivers transportation solutions at a local level for the Liverpool City Region. Merseyrail is the operator of the 3rd rail electrified rail services in and around Liverpool and the City Region.

PS. There’s an interesting article about DOO and whether it is safer than having train guards, in Private Eye No.1434, page 16, in the regular SIGNAL FAILURES column.

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:-

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.”