MERSEYRAIL has urged the RMT to cancel Saturday’s strike over DOO, which is set to disrupt the Liverpool region’s rail network on Grand National Day.
The appeal has followed publication today of a set of safety principles from the Office of Rail and Road.
DOO stands for driver only operation but is also being described as DCO, meaning driver controlled operation, defined by the ORR as ‘the method of working where the driver is responsible for door operation and determining that it is safe to start the train. How the driver determines whether the train is safe to start will be dependent upon the method of train dispatch and whether the supporting risk assessment requires other safety critical staff to be involved.’
The ORR’s ‘high level principles’ say that platforms and trains must be compatible, that the nature of the operation needs to be assessed alongside the needs of passengers and their behaviour, that staff should be trained and competent, that any introduction of DCO should be planned and that, after introduction, the system should continue to be managed and improved.
Chief inspecting officer of HMRI Ian Prosser said: “ORR’s Principles are designed to give guidance to industry about how best to plan and implement driver controlled operation. The most important element is planning new arrangements well in advance, talking with staff and their representatives to address concerns and ensure they are informed about the progress of plans.
“These Principles reinforce our view that suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff must be in place for the safe implementation of driver control operation.”
In response to the ORR paper today, Merseyrail managing director Jan Chaudhry-van de Velde said: “This is good news for our region. It proves beyond doubt that the approach Merseytravel and Merseyrail are taking in buying and introducing these new trains, exceeds the rigorous safety standards set by the independent regulator. The RMT’s concerns about the operation of the doors and the despatch of the trains have been comprehensively addressed by the ORR, who worked with the trade unions to draw up these safety principles.
“Importantly, it makes clear that the safety of DCO should no longer be the subject for argument. The question should not be who opens and close the doors, but how staff can be best deployed on-board. We have plenty of time – three years until the trains are introduced in 2020 – to discuss and agree this with the unions.
“That is why there is no need to go ahead with the damaging Grand National strike, which will only bring misery to local people and hurt the reputation of our city region on its biggest day of the year. I’m calling on the RMT to suspend this strike action today and sit down with us in meaningful talks.”
The RMT has yet to reply, but in a separate statement today the union condemned the Merseyrail franchise conditions, which it says protect the Abellio-Serco joint venture from any losses if revenue is reduced by industrial action. Instead, any shortfall must be publicly funded.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash called for an inquiry, saying: “First, we learn that Liverpool’s politicians signed a deal with Merseyrail that allows the company to skim a quarter of passenger fares in profit whilst paying nothing for new trains and instead getting rid of train guards.
“Now we find out that another part of the deal is that Merseyrail are protected from any losses as a result of industrial action and instead hard pressed Merseyside taxpayers and passengers will have to pay for Merseyrail’s war on our guards.
“There is a growing stench of scandal surrounding the new Merseyrail trains in which the fare payer loses out, taxpayers lose money, passengers lose the protection of train guards, guards lose their jobs and the only winner is Dutch-owned Merseyrail.”