How Wednesday’s rail strike will affect North East passengers and why it’s taking place We reveal the background of the dispute between unions and rail bosses over Drive Only Operated services Share Click to play Tap to play The video will start in 8 Cancel Play now Get daily updates directly to your inbox + Subscribe Thank you for subscribing! Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email
On Wednesday the latest strike action called by the RMT rail union will take place in its dispute with train companies about driver only operated trains .
It has rumbled on for some time now resulting in numerous stoppages and accusations of playing politics with passengers coming from both sides.
Here we look at the root cause of the strike, the position of the unions and rail operators and how it will affect you.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, when is the latest strike action taking place?
For people in the North East, it’s a 24 hour stoppage on November 8 involving staff who belong to the RMT union and work for Northern.
A one day strike by Merseyrail workers is also planned while a 48-hour strike starting on Wednesday will hit Southern, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line. Members of the RMT union on a picket line (Image: PA) What’s the strike about?
It’s essentially over the introduction of driver only operated (DOO) trains in which the train driver rather than the conductor opens and closes the doors and dispatches the train from a station. How did it start?
It originates from plans by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – owner of the Southern franchise – to increase the number of its services that use driver-only operation (DOO).
Over 75% of Southern services now operate this way, up from 40% before the programme began. Why are the unions objecting to it?
The train drivers’ union, ASLEF, and the RMT union, which mainly representing the guards, joined forces to oppose the expansion of DOO citing safety as one of their major concerns. Are these DOO services new?
No. It was introduced on the Bedford-St Pancras line in 1982 and has reportedly spread to approximately 30% of the UK mainline network, as well as London Underground and, of course, our own Tyne and Wear Metro . Why do those in favour of DOO say it is safe?
The UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and the independent regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), has concluded that DOO is a safe method of working, after years of research. Why won’t the unions accept this? Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT (Image: PA)
The unions disagree with much of the analysis and have cast doubt on the independence of both the RSSB and the ORR. It says, for example, the boss of GTR, Charles Horton was in fact a non-executive director at the RSSB.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash called it “a classic case of he who pays the piper calls the tune”. Have the unions any evidence that DOO trains are unsafe?
The RMT released a dossier in June last year describing what it saw as 10 serious incidents since 2011 on the platform/ train interface (PTI) – the number one area of risk, it says – such as passengers falling between the train and the platform. The PTI is the boundary between the platform and the train (or track if no train is present).
Eight of these were on services using DOO. The role of the guard could not be more “safety-critical”, the dossier explains, adding that they are “the eyes-and-ears of the rail network”. And what does the Rail Accident Investigation Branch say?
A summary of 18 PTI incidents, such as passengers getting hands trapped in doors, from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), ranging from 2010 to 2015, also shows some, but not all, occurring on DOO services. Even with a guard present, accidents do occur. Read More Future of the Metro: Timeline of how the service could be transformed in years to come Which routes in the North East do Northern operate on that will be affected on Wednesday?
Alnmouth and Morpeth to Newcastle and MetroCentre; Nunthorpe and Middlesbrough to Newcastle and MetroCentre; Bishop Auckland and Darlington to Saltburn; Sunderland and Newcastle to Carlisle. Is Northern running any service on the day?
It is and it has published a timetable for that day which you can find here: Like us on Facebook