Posted 20th May 2011 | 10 Comments

McNulty: union declares war on DOO proposals

SIR ROY McNULTY'S recommendation that trains in Britain should be worked by one person as a 'default' in future have been met with an angry response from the RMT union.

The proposal is one of a number of key reforms published as part of Sir Roy's objective to achieve a 30 per cent cut in railway costs by 2019.

His 'value for money' report published yesterday maintains that driver-only operation, usually known as DOO,  is 'a safe method of operation and improves performance', and adds that DOO should be the 'default position ... with a second member of traincrew only being provided where there is a commercial, technical or other imperative'.

Many commuter routes around Britain, including some in the London area, have been worked by driver-only trains for many years, but the RMT has maintained steady opposition to any extension of the practice. Its stance led to a protracted dispute on ScotRail last year, where the union opposed the use of DOO trains on the newly-restored Airdrie-Bathgate line, which opened in December.

In the end, the RMT gave way to some extent, but trains on the line still carry a second member of crew as a ticket examiner, rather than a conductor. One key difference is that conductors control the doors and are in charge of the train; another is that ticket examination staff are paid less.

Sir Roy said a substantial reduction in costs is essential, and warned that if such a reduction could not be achieved, the alternative could be a 'smaller railway', although line closures have been ruled out at this stage.

Abolishing conductors on all local, regional and commuter trains would involve the loss of several thousand jobs, and the proposal raises questions about revenue protection on lines with unstaffed stations.

An RMT spokesman told Railnews that any proposed extensions of DOO would be fought by the union on grounds of safety and efficiency.

The union's general secretary Bob Crow added: "Rail services are 30% more expensive in the UK as against comparable European operations for one, simple reason – privatisation. It’s the greed, exploitation and restrictive practices of the train operators that have led us to this situation and we will fight any attempt to shift the blame on to hardworking staff trying to provide quality services against a backdrop of increasing demand and front-line cuts."


Reader Comments:

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

  • Lorentz, London

    The Guard function has been defunct for a long time on most lines. The RMT's stance is just another example of it's mercenary tenancies.

  • Terry, Banbury, England

    McNulty appears to be a grossly overpaid idiot who has no experience of how the railways work, with just one competent person on the train i.e. the driver what would happen should the driver be incapacited by an accident or illness. A competent person should be available to organise and advise passengers at times of disruption.
    McNulty has stated that the pay for workers on the railway is too high, well a vast majority of the public believe that the "Lords" and their expenses are a complete waste of money, but McNulty is very welcome to apply for a job which might require him to get out of bed at the same time has he was getting into bed on the previous week, he would unfortunately have to decline the free lunches and other social meetings since is whole life would be generally governed by the anti-social aspect of the job.
    Yes I am a retired rail worker and I do know that the staff working in this and other service type industries deserve all and more of their pay.

  • Philip Russell, Carlisle, United Kingdom

    The Network Southeasat division of British Rail was well on the way to achieving similar DOO proposals on its network almost 20 years ago, which is why southern ,chiltern and First Capital Connect.etc. are mostly operated that way, then along came the private operators with garunteed subsidies who were mostly more interested in bright coloured trains and avoiding strikes at any cost than any long term echonomic benefit to the railways.
    Whilst it is far from the complete solution to rails high costs, these proposals if adopted would be a major step forward, and now with the spread of the GSMR radio to the whole netwok should not be as expensive as in the past

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex, England

    DOO may be perfectly ok on surbuban lines but on high speed lines there may be a case for a 2nd person.

    Also what is meant be DOO for its either a train has a driver on board together with a 2nd person in the cab while in some cases you only have a driver and no other staff. The problem of only having a driver on board is fare evasion and many ststions that are un-staffed and so even if a passenger wants to pay they cant!!

    Anyway, the best way to cut costs is to develop tram solutions on branch lines allowing smaller trains and automatic fare payment like OYSTER does in London.

    Then their is the cost of level crossings that fall on the rail industry and whether some of these costs should be met by road users, local councils or whether they should simply be closed.

  • Stephen Rowlings, Queensland Rail Operation, Cooparoo Brisbane QLD, Australia

    Mr McNULTY you plan isn't going to work, due to the fact that you will have to have ticket barriers at every station and a perminent member of staff at the station, you have shot your self in the foot here mate, RMT it just means more jobs created, funy that isn't it when they are trying to save money.

    Now railways, cost a lot of money to the tax payer, Hmm I ? that one for a start, now what about the roads in the UK, they must cost what 5X as much, and they are under a Government Sub.

    I think you need to place the Railway, Rolling stock all under the Franchise system, not let the Bank's rip of the public and the train operating company's Now that would save some money, with 22.5 years for all franchasees so they can invest their own money in to the trains and railway, even extending the railway, like the one to Reopen the Colne to Skipton railway in the North West of England, Now I have one thing to say about this project and that is Lancashire County Council, Pull you finger out and fully support the project, place it at the top of the Local transport plan, so that SELRAP can get the funding for the Grip 3 study, instead of puting all your money in Preston, Now you know that Private investment is almost in the bag for the project, so get on with puting up the 1.5 Million for the study, so that the investment can start to roll in.

  • Claydon William, Norwich, Norfolk

    It would be interestting to see a comparison of staff salaries and costs across europe for comparison. Bob Crow may decry privatisation, but IMO it has led to some exceptionall salaries for train drivers, taking many of them well over the salaries of; say; airline pilots.

    McNulty has missed out on one very important aspect of the rail network in this country, and that is competition.

    Competition helps keeps fares down, and the removal of natural rail competition to many towns and cities has had a detrimental effect on fare levels.

    Fare competition betwween franchises should be encouraged, expanded and marketed extensively.

  • Driver X, Kent, England

    First Capital Connect use DOO services, and it works successfully there.
    Life for us Drivers however is much easier with a Guard, and if any emergency situation occurs, a Guard is a Godsend.

    Also, although I don't know what the figures would be, I can imagine that to install the Mirrors and Monitors required for DOO on every station platform in the whole country would be quite costly. Some staffed DOO stations also have platform staff who operate the DOO CD/RA indicators, and this would also obviously add to costs.

    All in all, DOO could work across the whole network, but I don't see much point in it. The Government brings in around £600 Billion a year in taxes, and the Railway costs around £5 Billion per year (less than 1% of the total) to run. The Railway should be thought of as an institutional piece of infrastructure that just costs a certain amount every year, a bit like the NHS. Yes, the railway does pay some of its way in revenue, but why should anyone think that the Railway MUST be a net positive money earner?
    This yearning for the railway to be thought of as a business that MUST yield a profit, is simply a Ministerial fantasy.

    I just think of it as the Railway needs about 1% of GDP every year and that's that. If the Government can afford endless hordes of asylum seekers; an ever increasing cost to society for criminality (which only increases because tree hugging bed-wetting liberals won't deal with crime); and endless silly wars abroad, then why can't society pay for 'The arteries of the Nation' the Railway with just 1% of taxes?

    In my opinion, we don't need free market dogmatists foaming at the mouth in the attempt to make the Railway a money earner, and nor do we need Communist boneheads like 'Bollinger' Bob Crow trying to make personal capital out of every twist and turn in the Railway's fortunes.

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    McNulty has merely opened his mouth so far and already cost the taxpayer a fortune just by saying something stupid. The union will soon drag everyone out and the cost will go to the taxpayer. I thought he was here to reduce costs?

    This is like a street sweeper who is paid to clean streets, leaving the dump with a full bin lorry and emptying the contents on the roads as he goes.

  • T Price., Bestwood Village, United Kingdom

    How would abolishing Conductors comply with the Disability Discrimination Act? Who is going to put the wheelchair ramps down for disabled passengers, and render other assistance to passengers with other disabilities at unstaffed stations?
    The Driver can't do it for operational reasons, so who?
    This as well as the implications of lost revenue, security etc.

  • Anoop, London

    Our privatised system with short-term franchises is one of the most inefficient railway systems in human history, far more wasteful than any system the UK has had in the past (e.g. the 'Big Four' regional companies or British Rail).

    Railways need to be run by large organisations (for economies of scale) with vertical integration (i.e. managing both tracks and trains) and long-term planning. Whether this is a national system (e.g. European railways, British Rail) or private (e.g. Japanese railways, 'Big Four' prior to nationalisation) is less important.