Rail strike – the background


I think it’s beyond any doubt in the industry now that the Department for Transport is leading this action as it wishes to force through single manning of passenger services. Southern just happens to be the Train Operating Company in the middle and since Department for Transport have agreed a “management contract” with Southern GTR they have little choice but to go along with it. Their handling has not been good, but I fear that they are not free to act as they might wish – and it’s not often that I have sympathy for Southern management.

The RMT union can see the writing on the wall, as can train crew, and there are serious safety concerns about single manning. As there have been a number of incidents recently investigated by Rail Accident Investigation Branch and found to be wanting due to a lack of either a guard/conductor and/or platform staff, I agree with these safety concerns. There are further concerns regarding the safety of passengers on the train, and the driver – these may not be prevented by having a second person on the train, but the chances of a successful outcome are very much improved.

Both sides have got themselves so entrenched now that I am not optimistic that a good outcome will result. I just hope that there is some understanding and give and take, and that this comes out in the arbitration process. Otherwise I fear that the passengers will actually be the worst off victims of this cost-cutting.

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  1. John Stedman rightly places blame with Government and Management, though I would not be as uncritical as he is of Southern Rail (Govia) who have, all over the country, demonstrated their inability to organise and run a railway.
    The Unions understand rightly the consequences of single manning, the most obvious of which has been ignored by all parties: namely the management of disabled chairs and vehicles.
    I have very rarely been on a SR train (whether our Marsh Flier or the mainline trains through Gatwick) when there hasn’t been a call for the ‘invalid ramps’ – organised and effected by the train guard. There is no way a driver will be able to do the same job and most stations do not have the staff.


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