Posted 8th July 2016 | 2 Comments

RMT suggests pausing Southern DOO plan

THE RMT union is suggesting that plans to extend driver-only operation on Southern should be suspended until the autumn to allow further negotiations to take place.

The union has been opposing the changeover, which is set to start next month. Conductors on most routes will be replaced by on-board supervisors, and control of the doors will be transferred to drivers.

The RMT and Govia Thameslink Railway have been deeply divided over the proposals, with GTR pointing out that DOO is proved and tested on several of its routes, such as Thameslink, and also has the approval of railway safety authorities. However, the union insists that a conductor makes a major contribution to safety and that no further conversions to DOO are acceptable.

The dispute has already caused several strikes, and high levels of conductor sickness at other times have disrupted services almost continuously. In response, Southern, which has been under fire from angry passengers and also MPs, is axeing approximately one train in six from Monday so that its remaining services become more predictable.

The two sides were questioned by members of the House of Commons Transport Committee earlier this week. The committee's chairman Louise Ellman commented that something had to be done, 'and done quickly', and that 'it's clear the franchise is not being run properly'.

In an open letter to GTR chief executive Charles Horton, RMT general secretary Mick Cash has now said: “I refer to the recent hearing at the Transport Select Committee where we were both asked: 'What could be done to help resolve the current impasse?'

"You will also be aware that we have both had numerous conversations with passengers and their Members of Parliament who are asking  that we go the extra mile in seeking a resolution to the dispute.

"I would therefore wish to develop the offer of the new approach I made at the Transport Select Committee.

"The RMT will suspend calling any further industrial for the next three months if you will also suspend your proposals for a similar period.

"This will then allow us the time and space to sit down together and try and explore options that will seek to deliver the lasting improvements to service and reliability we all want."

Although no reply to the RMT's letter has yet been published, a spokesman for Govia Thameslink Railway said: “We welcome the offer of talks and a new approach from the RMT. We have been trying to actively engage them for the past six months. We welcome the suggested suspension of industrial action, but we don't need three months to resolve this. We are ready to sit down with the RMT and discuss a way forward that we believe that they, our employees and customers will welcome, and can bring an end to this dispute.

“In the meantime we would ask the RMT to work with us, as previously requested, to address the main cause of the current service problems, which is the remarkably high levels of sickness amongst some RMT members.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    One does wonder whether our country can ever move forward into the 21st century whilst unions have so much power. Having safely ridden on driverless trains in Singapore numerous times, I find the idea of strikes over (when it basically boils down to it) who presses a button, completely ridiculous. The unions still live in the dark old days (to extend the point to it's extreme, it is like unions in the munitions factories going on strike and demanding we still make cannonballs for the Royal Navy). Somehow, the unions need to be reigned in, ideally not using absolute force, but in the end, the commuters to London who pay incredible amounts of their income in taxes to keep this country running, and then after taxes pay quite substantial fares to get to work (or not get to work), need to be seen as the most important people here. Not someone who goes on strike over a door button.
    [You don't have to go as far as Singapore for driverless trains. How about the Docklands Light Railway as an example rather nearer to home?--Editor.]

  • Douglas, Edinburgh

    So no progress then....with such a yes/no topic I can't see how either side can back down while saving face