Fears raised over rail passenger safety

Rail cuts action at Lancaster Railway Station
Rail cuts action at Lancaster Railway Station
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Up to 1,000 train guards in the north of England could be sacked to make way for “driver only operation” according to rail unions.

The RMT said services on the Lancaster, Leeds, Windermere and Barrow lines would be affected, and that the safety of passengers would be jeopardised.

This would mean the driver will be expected to drive the train while at the same time be responsible for passenger safety,

Steve Metcalfe

The union believes that government’s proposals for the future of the Northern and TransPennine Express rail franchises will result in cuts to funding, fare rises, service and timetable cuts and the loss of hundreds of essential rail jobs.

“Passenger service and safety will be worsened by the introduction of driver only operation, the sacking of train guards/conductors, station de-staffing and ticket office closures,” it said.

The Transpennine Express and Northern Rail franchises are currently going through a tender process and the Department for Transport will choose a new operator who will be in place by April 2016. The bidders for Transpennine Express are FirstGroup, Keolis and Stagecoach. The companies bidding for Northern Rail are Arriva, Govia and Abellio .

Steve Metcalfe, RMT Union secretary for the north of England was campaigning at Lancaster Railway Station last week.

He said that plans for driver only operation would mean there would be no guards and the driver would be the only guaranteed member of staff on the train.

“This would mean the driver will be expected to drive the train while at the same time be responsible for passenger safety,” he said. “Services across the north of England would be affected, and locally this would affect the Morecambe to Leeds line, Windermere, and also the Barrow line, would all be affected.

“Effectively you’re losing people to help you on the stations and on the trains. It’s going to have a big effect on the safety of passengers. The driver has the responsibility for the safety of the train, but he can’t look out for passengers as well.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We have ambitious plans to transform rail in the north and provide better journeys for passengers across the region.

“We recognise the value of customer-facing staff on the railways, which is why we are not specifying any staff cuts in the new franchises. Giving drivers responsibility for opening and closing doors frees up on-board staff to provide the high level of customer service that passengers deserve.”