Southern trains would become a “mugger’s paradise” should rail providers remove all guards and conductors, according to a trade union secretary.
Mick Cash has said RMT is “seriously concerned” over proposals by Govia Thameslink Railways Ltd (GTR) to introduce driver-only operation on nearly all their services in Sussex.
Mr Cash said: “Not only will this see the loss of up to 400 decent rail jobs, if enacted, these proposals will be detrimental for both passenger service and safety and create a mugger’s paradise on these services.
“GTR are proposing these damaging cuts despite the fact the vast majority of trains in the UK are still operated by two members of staff, a driver and a guard/conductor.
“Currently, both the driver and the guard/conductor protect the safety of the train. The driver is responsible for the safe operation of the train and the guard/conductor for the protection of the passengers.
“Guard/conductors must be fully-trained in operational safety and route knowledge, including being able to secure the doors safely, protecting the train and acting in emergencies such as derailments or fire. Emergencies can also include if the driver is incapacitated for any reason, or if there is a failure of train safety systems.
“Guard/conductors also look out for and report hazards on or near the line and are trained to deal with problems on the track. The guard/conductor is also vital to ensuring passengers board and disembark trains safely and in assisting elderly and disabled passengers.
“As well as the extensive areas of safety responsibility that guard/conductors have to undergo training and retraining for, they are also helping passengers and providing them with a better service. By checking tickets, guard/conductors also give travel information and expert advice about the journey.
“We know passengers like having a uniformed member of staff on the train to make them feel safer about their journey (especially later at night) and to deter anti-social behaviour.
“It is simply unacceptable at a time of massive congestion and growing passenger numbers on trains that the driver is to be expected to drive the train while at the same time being responsible for passenger safety.
“Record and growing passenger numbers and revenues mean there is no economic case for removing the guard/conductors. Indeed with ever increasing passenger numbers and more problems caused by overcrowding and congestion on Southern services, not to forget the most expensive fares in Europe, passengers want and deserve more staff not less.”
A spokesperson for GTR said: “We are exploring ways in which we can improve the on-train experience for our passengers and we want our on-train team to be more visible, accessible and better able to provide service information.
“We take the safety and security of our passengers very seriously. On some services, the conductor role will remain in full, but the modern rolling stock that we are introducing, to keep up with the rapidly growing demand on our services means that there are opportunities to review how we deliver further improvements in reliability, punctuality, the quality of on board service and customer satisfaction, all things we know our passengers value.
“We are disappointed that the RMT has taken this position as we are at the very beginning of the review process with the Unions. We have yet to meet TSSA and RMT to discuss the proposal and work out the detailed implications of these changes.
“Our intention and expectation is that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of this process.”
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