Posted 25th February 2010 | 6 Comments

First Minister urged to intervene in Scottish DOO dispute

THE DISPUTE over train staff on the restored Airdrie-Bathgate line has now involved the First Minister, Alex Salmond. The RMT union is calling for his intervention after more talks with ScotRail broke down amid accusations of a media leak. There has already been one strike over the issue and two more are planned, one on Monday and another on 13 March.

ScotRail wants to run trains on the restored link between Glasgow and Edinburgh with a driver and ticket examiner, but the RMT says the second member of staff should be a conductor/guard, who would control the doors and be responsible for the safety of the train. But the Class 334 units which will be used on the route only have door controls in the driver‘s cab, and ScotRail said the addition of controls for conductors would cost £1.4 million.

Talks had been taking place this week, but broke down yesterday (Wednesday), when the RMT alleged that details of an agreement for DOO between ScotRail and Transport Scotland had been drawn up last summer and had now been leaked to a newspaper. The RMT said: ‘The carefully placed leak raised serious questions about just who is calling the shots on the planned ripping up of existing agreements on passenger and staff safety, and just who RMT should be negotiating with.’  

However, a ScotRail source dismissed suggestions of a deliberate leak, pointing out that the information had been contained in briefings to several hundred conductors.

Meanwhile, the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament that discussions with Transport Scotland over the type of train crew to be employed on the Airdrie-Bathgate route had been held when the previous government was in power, but he did not indicate that he intended to change train crew policy.

A ScotRail spokesman said more than nine out of ten trains still ran when the first strike was staged on 20 February, and is predicting a similar situation next week.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow confirmed that Monday's strike would be going ahead, and claimed safety was at the heart of the disagreement. He said: “It is simply about the company compromising safety by axeing guards in order to save money.”

ScotRail has denied all along that safety is being compromised, pointing out that many trains in Strathclyde have their doors operated by the driver, on some lines for as long as 25 years. The company said savings would be made by the Scottish Government rather than FirstGroup, and that the money would be used to support other rail projects or services instead.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Charlie Adams, Bilston

    As the cost of a fatality is around £2 million, if memory serves me, £1.4 million is small beer, The ticket examiner involved in the Paddington incident stated that he had no way of communicating with the driver (who was dead) and was not trained in protection, so it was nothing to do with him. The guy who fell between the platform and the train (and got burns) last week at Yardley Wood must be quite thankful there was a guard there, as well as the train operating company. Driver only operation is madness.

  • philip russell, carlisle, united kingdom

    i also blame weak management on companies especially south west trains who actually innstalled doo equipment on its london suburban network about 12 years ago that must have cost a few quid then immediatly ripped it down again at the first threat of a strike also nat express east anglia and london overground ,southern etc have shied away from extending doo operations basically not to rock the boat with the rmt well with this kind nervous leadership its no wonder the union thinks its campaign is unstoppable well done scot rail for not pandering to the union threats straight away like others seem to have done in the past

  • C. Ductor, Manchester Piccadilly, UK

    Scotrail .... "oh we've had DOO for 25 years."

    25 years ago, Maggie was in, and the poll tax riots were in full swing. Maybe it's time FirstGroup management catch up and move into the present.

    Expanding DOO will cost more in industrial disputes, than the money it saves.

  • Peter Dalton, St Albans, UK

    I assume the door controls were not fitted when they were ordered as they are not needed as the driver is more than capable of closing the doors on the train as is done on many other lines including the Bedford to St Pancras services where British Rail introduced DOO in 1981.

  • Llion Wynne Jones, aberdare

    As long as they keep the drivers I dont mind, I just hope that they will find jobs for the conductores, having said that the route is going to cread a fair amount of jobs anyway.

  • andrew ganley, sutton, united kingdom

    It beggers belief that since the dawn of the disasterous privatisation the railways have been in the hands of second rate 'bus companies(are there any other?). So it will cost a million to fix,why didnt the door controls get fitted when ordered? and whats so important to keep Siemens in business,wasnt too long ago the we had a perfectly good rail works in York,oh i keep forgetting the Tories privatised BREL and the first thing that happened was it was close down.