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Fresh Blow for Southern Commuters

“Driver Only Operation is dangerous”

Unions have risked antagonising rail bosses ahead of conciliation talks, in what could be a fresh blow for beleaguered commuters on Southern Rail services.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which represents train conductors in the long-running dispute over driver-only services, today releases figures which they say show “safety critical staff” were absent from an average of three services a day in recent weeks.

Leaders of the RMT union are to meet Southern Railway bosses under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas on Tuesday, in talks aimed at resolving the row which has caused disruption for hundreds of thousands of frustrated passengers.

RMT
Credit: Jonathan Brady /PA

But the talks look set to get off to a bad start as the union is holding firm on its position that driver-only trains are dangerous, despite the independent rail safety authorities giving them the green light.

The RMT new figures show the equivalent of 1,000 services a year continue to operate without a second member of staff, despite promises made by bosses of Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway.

The union  said last month that at least six times more Southern services were travelling without a second member of staff than was promised.

At the time the company faced industrial action including a ban on overtime by drivers which led to delays and cancellations.

The union said the new figures provided by rail workers and passengers from January 20 to February 6, when there was not any industrial action, showed that at least 26 trains did not have a scheduled on board supervisor – an average of three services a day or 1,000 a year.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said where trains had no second member of staff, “a disabled passenger may not be able to get on or off the train” or “passengers and the driver are at increased risk from anti-social behaviour or if something goes wrong, such as a derailment or fire”.

He added: “Guaranteeing a second member of safety critical staff on every train is the only way you can guarantee access for all and a safer journey for passengers.”

A Southern spokesman said: “We said we would roster a second person to every train that has one today, and we are.

“However, we also said in exceptional circumstances when an on board supervisor is unavailable we will run the train as it is passengers’ interests to do so.”

The drivers’ union Aslef is balloting its members on a deal aimed at resolving its dispute with Southern, with the result due on Thursday.

© The Telegraph

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