Posted 13th March 2017 | 4 Comments

Three operators hit by DOO strikes


TRAIN services are being disrupted by strikes in several parts of England today.

RMT members have walked out at Merseyrail, Northern and Southern in protest at plans to extend driver-only operation.

The strike affecting Southern services is the latest in a long series which began almost a year ago. Southern says no trains are running on some lines, such as between Milton Keynes Central and East Croydon, and there are cancellations on other routes.

Northern expects to run roughly 40 per cent of its usual timetable until about 19.00, while Merseyrail said its services are ‘much reduced’, because many drivers are refusing to cross RMT picket lines at the system’s two depots. 

Operators and the Department for Transport are continuing to maintain that DOO is safe, but the RMT has remained implacably opposed to any extensions. The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “In the teeth of a relentless campaign of spin and intimidation from Southern Rail the RMT guards' and drivers' action continues to hold firm in the fight for rail safety nearly a year on‎.

“Instead of their usual barrage of distortions and misinformation it is about time Southern/GTR [Govia Thameslink Railway] got out of the bunker and got back round the t‎able with the union in serious and meaningful talks.”

Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer said: “Passengers have every right to be angry and confused at this unnecessary strike.

“We have a growing railway with great opportunities for our people, and rail companies have offered to guarantee jobs and pay. We are introducing modern trains which passengers want and new technology which enables us to improve services without ever compromising on safety.

“Modernisation plans in the north of England are at an early stage and the companies involved want to work with staff and unions on those.”

The RMT has also warned that it is considering taking legal action against the Office of Rail and Road, which is allegedly not protecting the rights of disabled passengers on DOO trains. Mick Cash said: “It is obviously the case that if a disabled passenger once had the guarantee of a guard on their service and that guarantee is withdrawn then the disabled passenger has been disadvantaged. Far from being about modernisation driver-only trains turns the clock back on the rights of disabled and older passengers.”

A spokesman for the ORR said: “ORR monitors train companies to determine whether their policies and procedures are compliant with ‎their obligations. We are also carrying out research to understand better the experience of passengers that pre-book passenger assistance and those that receive assistance without booking.‎

“We work with industry and passenger groups to improve the service all passengers receive. This includes taking enforcement action where we consider it is in passengers' best interests.”

Reader Comments:

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

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    I can't help wondering just how much political agendas are at work preventing a speedy resolution ( as on Scotrail) in England.

    On one side, an attempt to push a disenchanted public into supporting a renationalisation agenda, whilst the other side seem to be out to " smash the unions", as went on in the 1980's towards various groups of people?

  • MikeB, Liverpool

    Like the situation at Southern, Merseyrail are "piggy-in-the-middle" whereby they are implementing the plans for the new trains, that have been designed exclusively for Merseytravel. Hence the politicians of Liverpool City Region have insisted that the trains will be DOO and Merseyrail are merely following those instructions.

  • Garth, Dunkeld

    I agree with that comment precisely, though it is still worth saying that the Safety Authority denies there is any greater risk from DCO than the existing arrangements.

    That leads to another consideration, at least so far as Merseyrail is concerned. They are seeking to implement a policy set by the Council, as I understand it. Accordingly, it might be argued that the RMT are setting themselves against a democratically-arrived at decision supported by a safety authority. That is not a comfortable situation to be in.

    It was my experience here in Scotland that most of the guards did not want to strike, as they could see the flaws in the union's position. Particularly given that the Glasgow suburban trains (up to 6 cars long) have been successfully DCO for years. They did however want to support their union.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    It does seem, if I've understood correctly that the "Scotrail solution" makes a lot of sense.

    Opening the doors doesn't seem to involve much safety risk, and so can be done by the driver, whereas closing them and giving "right away" will involve much more potential hazard and is best done by a guard / conductor, at least on longer consist / busier trains.