By Phil Marsh

Midsummer rail strikes – latest news and views from Scotland and London

Published: 20th June

Rail, Maritime & Transport Union drags Scotland into a needless damaging strike says Scotrail boss

While Thameslink management re-iterates no job losses as RMT strike hits London and the south coast in similar dispute.

ScotRail Managing Director Scotland Phil Verster has said that Scotland is needlessly being dragged into a rail dispute that will disrupt tens of thousands of people and hurt hundreds of ScotRail employees.

He said this as talks again broke down after the RMT refused to cancel their strike thus allowing meaningful discussions to take place. He added that the RMT have been running a campaign of disinformation that doesn’t bear any scrutiny claiming:

The RMT have said the strike is about driver-only trains. It is not. There would still be a second person scheduled to be on services following the introduction of the faster, longer, greener trains from late next year.

The RMT have said that services that have the train door opened and closed by the driver are unsafe. The fact is says Mr Verster is that today 59% of people who travel by train in Scotland do so on a service that safely operates in this manner and has been the case with the full agreement of the Trades Unions for 30 years.

The Office of Rail and Road who oversee railway safety has described the method of operation, where the driver safely opens and closes the train doors as ‘a safe method of working.’

History repeats itself

In 2010 the RMT called a strike prior to the opening of the new electric service between Glasgow and Edinburgh via Bathgate but the line is operated in the way the RMT are striking to oppose and safely carries hundreds of thousands of passengers annually.

The RMT claims that the proposals downgrade the role of the Conductor but in a carefully worded phrase, ScotRail has guaranteed the role; conductor jobs; and pay terms and conditions until the end of the Abellio stewardship of the ScotRail franchise.

Striking services

ScotRail has set up a dedicated website that has all the information about services that will be affected during the strike: www.scotrail.co.uk/strike

Scotrail hopes that as around half of all services already operate safely in the way the RMT opposes with the driver safely opening and closing the door while a second member of staff carries out customer service and retail duties, plus fully trained and competent ScotRail/Abellio managers working as Conductors on the strike days, ScotRail forecsats it will carry over 70% of its normal passenger numbers.

They said:

Phil Verster, ScotRail Managing Director said:

“This strike is totally needless. The RMT have refused point blank to talk to us about how we modernise and improve Scotland’s railway. Instead they have hidden behind a national policy that says that nothing must ever change. Tens of thousands of our customers will be disrupted and hundreds of our own people will be hit financially as a result of their intransigence.

“The public will be astonished to hear that this is a strike only about who opens and closes doors on trains, nothing more!

“The RMT are being, at best, disingenuous when they tell people that we are trying to have Driver only trains. We are not. We will still schedule a second person on-board when we bring in the amazing new faster, longer, greener electric trains from next year.

“Each and every day, people in Scotland make around 150,000 journeys on trains that have the doors safely opened and closed by the driver, while a second member of staff carries out customer service duties.

The RMT are hiding behind a safety argument that doesn’t add up. The reality is that they are just opposed to change. “We will still schedule a second person on board these amazing new modern trains when they arrive and we have guaranteed to the RMT that there will be no impact on Conductor jobs, pay or terms and conditions.

Meanwhile in London and the southeast of England

On the eve of a third strike by the RMT union, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) called on those thinking of supporting the action to think again and put passengers first. A restricted service will operate on June 21 and other strike days with many routes having a reduced service, with none on others. Other routes will have a later start and earlier end to services and GTR has apologised to passengers for the disruption this will inevitably cause.

Tomorrow’s strike is completely unnecessary and they re-iterated:

· No-one will lose their job. There is a job for everyone who wants one

· No-one will lose salary

· The new On-Board Supervisor role is all about offering a better level of customer service

· As many trains will be staffed as they are today

· Trains won’t be cancelled if an On-Board Supervisor isn’t available

· Driver-only operated trains are nothing new. 40% of Southern services are operated as driver-only operation, and driver-only operation is just as safe as operating trains with a conductor.

Claim and counter claim

The RMT has claimed that GTR has been needlessly cancelling trains inconveniencing passengers but GTR has published their evidence that the RMT is wrong to claim the train company is deliberately cancelling Southern services and blaming it on a lack of train crew. A few of the examples are below:

The number of trains cancelled because of a shortage of train crew (conductors and drivers) has soared eight-fold from an average of 26 each weekday in March to 244 so far this June.

The trains highlighted by the RMT by its members dialling into a hotline appeared on the face of it to be misrepresented but the facts explain the ‘confusion’:

RMT said: “17.57 London Bridge to Brighton yesterday was cancelled due to crew unavailable. When Control were asked which member of crew was missing, they didn’t say which one but they did say the stock was missing”

The facts: This train was cancelled because a driver was not available to bring the train into London Bridge on its inbound journey. So the train was missing because of a lack of available train crew.

The RMT said: “On Monday 13.6.15 at Fratton station the 1403 from Brighton to Portsmouth Harbour had terminated at Fratton due to late running. This train had left Brighton on time with a Driver and Conductor both booked to work it through to Portsmouth and back to Barnham. There was no further delay handing over at Barnham as the relief Conductor and Driver were both in place so the train was fully crewed throughout. The announcements at Fratton repeatedly stated that this train (1537 Fratton to Brighton) was delayed due to awaiting a member of train crew although it had been fully crewed throughout”

The facts: This train was stuck behind another train that was waiting for a conductor at Barnham. Because of this it had to be cancelled because of its late running.

RMT said: “Monday 13th June. This evening this happened. Both conductor and driver was there! The conductor had been in the Breakroom since 20:30pm so no excuse. Driver was on platform waiting”. The facts: This is the same train as the one above. Same reason – missing conductor on a train ahead caused this cancellation

They said:

A spokesman for Southern said:

“There is absolutely no incentive for us to cancel trains unnecessarily – we are fined heavily every time this happens. Most of these spurious examples can be explained by missing train crew causing an earlier cancellation but with so much disruption, genuine mistakes are also bound to be made when telling our passengers what is going on.

“The simple fact is sickness levels among train crew is very high. Amongst conductors, the latest weekly rate is almost double the average. This, combined with reluctance now by drivers at some locations to work overtime on top of their standard four-day working week, is leaving us with a shortfall of train crew.

“The RMT can argue about this all they like. Our focus is on restoring the service we give our passengers. That cannot be achieved by unnecessary strikes, only by sensible dialogue.”

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