Posted 9th February 2010 | 7 Comments

Unions clash over DOO proposal on new Scottish route

THE RMT and ASLEF have clashed over ScotRail’s plans to use drivers to control the doors on trains running between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate and Airdrie from the end of this year. Trains on the newly reopened line are to carry ticket examiners rather than conductors, and the difference of opinion has been revealed just before the result of an RMT ballot on the issue is due to be published later today.

ScotRail has argued all along that many trains in the Strathclyde area have their doors worked from the driver's cab, in some cases for as long as 25 years, and has promised that all trains will continue to carry two crew members.

The operator has pointed out that the addition of a conductors' panel on the Class 334 units which are due to work the reopened line from December would be very expensive and take time to install. Meanwhile, the new Siemens Class 380 units which are scheduled to come into service on the Ayrshire coast and Inverclyde routes this autumn, allowing the Class 334s to be cascaded, have also been designed with driver-controlled doors.

The ASLEF Executive has voted to accept ScotRail's plans for the Airdrie-Bathgate line, also pointing out that although ten conductors' jobs will be shed, 32 new drivers and 32 new ticket examiners will be needed, with a net gain of 54 jobs.

But the RMT has steadfastly opposed any extension of the driver/ticket examiner system, because it wants trains to retain conductor guards who control the doors. The result of a strike ballot of more than 550 RMT staff at ScotRail should be known later today.

There has been no comment on the disagreement from either union, but ScotRail said savings in employing ticket examiners rather than conductors would benefit the Scottish Government, which would pay a lower subsidy but therefore have more funds to invest in other rail services and projects.

A spokesman for ScotRail added: “The conductors will retain the right to work at their present locations, and we welcome the ASLEF decision. It would be deeply disappointing if this unjustified action by the RMT goes ahead, especially at a time when a number of businesses across the UK are announcing posts are being axed or threatened. The new route will offer major benefits to passengers and create 130 new jobs. No one is losing their job, and current terms and conditions are guaranteed.”  

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Jamie Griffin, Leeds, United Kingdom

    I have worked at a TOC before and I know how heavily passengers rely on train conductors so getting rid of them is not the answer. Like many of you have said conductors are their for the safety of passengers. In my opinion if I boarded a train and it had no conductor I would simply leave the train becasue the dirver is not a suitable to carry out emergency procedures on his/her own.

  • Bob, Edinburgh, Scotland

    David from Peterborough. Sorry but I agree with C.Ductor from Manchester. Driver Only Operation means just what it says in that the train can be operated with just one man ie the Driver. Although at present in Scotland there is a requirement to have a "second man" on board this is just a franchise agreement and as we know franchises come and go. Who is to say that in the future it is decided that this man is surplus to requirements and must go also.

    When there is a shortage of Ticket Examiners in the Strathclyde area, where DOO trains currently operate, the trains still run without them - is that safe? If a train needs a Conductor then one is found for it even if it means delaying the service - not good for performance figures but better for safety don't you think?

    All rail staff are given basic safety training but only operational staff (eg Drivers & Conductors) are given specific route & traction knowledge - knowledge that could make the difference in an incident/emergency. Conductors have to pass regular rules exams and on-train assessments. Conductors have to be conversant in fire safety, evacuation procedures, & the protection of the train in the event of a derailment, collision, or other serious operating incident. Ticket Examiners do not - and if a TOC says otherwise then they should be regraded as conductors and paid the relevant salary. In my opinion drivers have enough to do without burdening them with a conductors duties as well.

    Although the RMT ask for a conductor in every train this dispute is about the removal of conductors from an existing line. If the union & members do not fight this where will it end? Driver Only Operation is less safe than Driver/Conductor Operation and the extension of it must be challenged. The only way to ensure a fully qualified "second man" on-board all trains is to retain the conductor.

    Remember the conductors primary role is the safety of the train and of the passengers (note not customers) therein. That is YOUR safety if you are a train traveller. Think on that.

  • David, Peterborough

    In reply to C.Ductor, these trains are not going to have one person on board (read the story again). All of the trains will have a driver AND a ticket examiner. The RMT want it to be a driver and a conductor. Presumably the ticket examiners are trained in safety procedures should the train be involved in an incident. I believe there is an agreement in Scotland that every train must have two crew members, but it is not specified what they must be.

  • Lorentz, London, UK

    It is essential that these changes go ahead. It is not necessary to have a jobs worth to safeguard the passengers when the second person can be more useful applied to touring the carriages rather than sitting idle.

  • George, High Peak, UK

    DOO is here to stay. The alternative is trains too expensive to operate so shut down the railways and lets all go by road which, as we know, is sooooo much safer!

  • philip russell, carlisle, united kingdom

    the present doo operations have existed since the early 80s in england and the mid to late 80s in scotland and as far as i am aware similar type doo trains run in parts of many other developed countries throughout the world whilst the idea is not perfect it has proven pretty safe and sucessfull on many lines over many years and it should be for the professional safety authorities who have been doing the job for years to decide weather it has suddenly become unsafe rather than the rmt ,if the union is allowed to dictate this what will their next demand be probably a 12 car networker unit made up of 3 or 4 units must have a member of staff on each unit before it can move an inch etc etc whilst we have some bad managers and companies involved in our railways mr crow and his barons are sadly not the ansewer to rails problems

  • C. Ductor, Manchester Piccadilly

    Driver Only Operation should not expand. Trains with one person on should be a thing of the past. If a train derails, and the driver is incapacitated, that leaves no-one with proper safety training on site to prevent other trains hitting the derailment. The safety authorities, as should the small minority of Aslef staff who backed it should hang their head in shame for supporting this financial pennypinching.