Government 'not credible' on train staffing, Labour says


Labour has accused the Government of failing to protect staffing numbers on trains despite claiming the opposite, as the issue continues to spark industrial disputes across the country and legal action over the rights of disabled passengers.

An investigation by Transport Network has cast doubt on claims made by the Department for Transport (DfT) to the Transport Select Committee that it sought to protect levels of on-train staffing.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald MP

It told the committee in January it had ‘never required a reduction....On the contrary, franchise specifications have emphasised the importance of ensuring that on-train and/or platform staff are visible to passengers and available to meet their needs'.

However, while franchise documents require on-train staff to be ‘visible’, they do not set out any requirement for staff to be on board the trains in the first place.

The DfT has told Transport Network that the GTR franchise agreement ‘outlines that the importance of staff being available to customers is part of the specification for franchises, and bidders are expected to demonstrate how their plans meet passenger needs’.

However, neither the franchise agreement nor the invitation to tender for the GTR contract makes any stipulation as to the level of staffing. The tender document states that the franchise holder should ‘ensure that on-train staff are visible to customers’ but does not require staff to be on trains.

It also requires a bidder to set out ‘whether and how any changes to the role of on-train staff will contribute to achieving the requirement to ensure on-train staff are visible to customers’.

This means that GTR can meet its obligation by moving on-board staff into a more visible customer-facing role but will not breach it by running trains without them.

The GTR franchise is a management contract where the DfT pays the company to run services and receives the revenue.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald MP told Transport Network: ‘It isn’t credible for the Government to say that they are attempting to make staff more visible and available while at the same time incentivising Train Operating Companies to remove staff from trains.

‘This goes to show that driver only operation (DOO) is about boosting the coffers of TOCs by allowing the de-staffing of services, not about improving customer service as is claimed.’

He added: ‘This lack of transparency will only add to the uncertainty faced by disabled passengers who risk losing their ability to spontaneously travel with the expansion of Driver Only Operation. The Government should be prioritising a safe and accessible railway rather than train operating company profits. At the very least, they should be up-front about changes to services and what it will mean for passengers.’

The availability of on-train staff is at the heart of the long-running dispute between train operator GTR, which runs Southern services, and the RMT union. Having switched conductors (guards) to new customer facing roles as on board supervisors, GTR has refused to guarantee that trains will not be run without a second member of staff.

On Monday, a deal between GTR and drivers’ union ASLEF was again rejected by the union’s members.

The dispute over DOO, which allows guards to be removed, has now spread to two franchises in the North of England - Merseyrail and Northern Rail and the Grand National on Saturday (8 April) could be affected by RMT strikes over the issue. 

Southern has been criticised for allegedly failing to provide on-train staff to assist disabled passengers. The DfT is the subject of legal action from a passenger group for allegedly failing to require it to do so, as well as not taking action for alleged breaches of franchise obligations.

The disabled and older people’s charity, Transport for All, has now written to the Court asking to submit further witness statements, expressing the 'full range' of issues affecting disabled passengers.

A DfT spokesperson told Transport Network that levels of on-board staffing are an ‘operational’ matter for GTR.

A Southern spokesman said: ‘Our modernisation plans have always been about making on-board staff more visible and that's exactly what we have done. As promised, we guarantee to roster a second person to every service that previously had a conductor.

‘We have also introduced on-board supervisors to our Gatwick Express trains which previously had none.’

Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs


Royal Borough of Greenwich
£24.462 - £25.809
Seeking an experienced Climbing Arborist who has NPTC / LANTRA qualifications in chainsaw use and climbing operation units for an... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Environmental Enforcement Patrol Officer

Brent Council
£31,548 - £33,291 p.a. inc.
Looking for a person who has experience in undertaking enforcement work, carrying out awareness raising/promotional work.  Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Management Operative/Foreman

Balfour Beatty
Are you a Traffic Management Operative/Foreman with Highspeed (12AB) Qualifications, looking for a new and exciting opportunity? If so read on..... Leatherhead, Surrey
Recuriter: Balfour Beatty

Principal Economic Growth Officer

Essex County Council
Up to £45,000 per annum
It is an exciting time to be joining the Economic Growth team at Essex County Council. Essex
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Economic Infrastructure Manager

Essex County Council
Up to £57,000 per annum
It is an exciting time to be joining the Economic Growth team at Essex County Council Essex
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Head of Service - Highways

Sheffield City Council
£69,091 - £74,137
Looking for someone dynamic, with vision, energy, and an outward focus who can build strong relationships with all key partners, stakeholders with... Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Sheffield City Council

Senior Transport Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£33,799 - £35,934
You will be responsible for assisting the Team Manager with the day to day operational management and delivery of the transport service.  Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

PCN Appeals Officer

Brent Council
£26,745 - £30,711 p.a. inc.
Looking for an experienced parking professional to join the Notice Processing Team. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Environmental Protection Officer

London Borough of Sutton & The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames
£25,809 to £33,291 (Grade F-G) / £33,291 to £42,684 (Grade H-I)
As an Environmental Protection Officer, you will be part of a small multidisciplinary team delivering a range of statutory environmental functions... Kingston Upon Thames (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Sutton & The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames

Environmental Protection Team Manager

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£44.607 - £47.511
We would like to hear from exceptional candidates with broad pollution control experience and a can-do attitude who... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Highways Gang Leader

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
An exciting opportunity for a Highways Gang Leader has arose based at Taylors Lane, Oldbury. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Road Agreements Team Leader OCC5803

Oxfordshire County Council
£49,522 - £56,481 per annum
Take the next step in your career - click here to find out more information. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Highways and Street Lighting Manager

London Borough of Bromley
Circa £43,000 per annum
Seeking an experienced professional with experience in highway, street lighting and traffic engineering. Bromley (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Bromley

Principal Transport Planner

Brent Council
£48,492 - £51,450 p.a. inc.
The post holder will play a key role in implementing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy at a borough level through... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
The post-holder will be supporting the design, management and maintenance of traffic signals, signs, bollards and... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Permit Officer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£24,313 - £26,317 per annum
The post holder will undertake technical work related to street works management to ensure that the Council fulfils its duties under legislation... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£24,313 - £26,317 per annum
As part of this role you will manage and maintain TRO’s and associated systems including public facing website and... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Tree Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£31,836 to £36,931 per annum
The successful post holders will have strong experience of working in town based areas, ideally in... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Network Inspector

Telford & Wrekin Council
£24,313 - £26,317 per annum
As part of a team you will ensure year round network coverage and compliance with permit conditions to ensure a safe... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Head of Highways and Transport  

Swindon Borough Council
Circa £75K p.a
You’ll lead the Highways and Transport teams on a day to day basis and develop the strategic positioning of the service. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council