Hundreds sign petition against the move to axe train guards
APETITION against plans to axe guards on Merseyrail trains has attracted more than 800 signatures.
The petition, aimed at Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, has been created after the company announced a £460m plan for new trains which would be operated only by drivers.
The trains would be bigger and faster, but would have no guards, meaning drivers are solely responsible for opening and closing doors and deciding when trains should leave.
Similar plans around the country have led to industrial action, with serious fears raised about the safety of the services.
The petition has been launched by Liverpool resident Sean Penny and simply states, ‘Keep guards on the train’.
Rail unions were angry at the announcement and the RMT has already warned it could lead to industrial action.
They say the move could jeopardise passenger safety – a charge denied by Merseytravel, which said driver control is widely and safely used across the UK.
Signatories include Billy Parry, who said: “We cannot keep losing jobs like this. Safety must be paramount. People before profit!”
Daren Ireland said: “Passengers need safety critical guards on trains.”
And Kate Mann said: “I would not feel safe on trains without the ability to call on a guard. I have seen guards helping people and buggies on and off. What if someone is taken ill?”
A row over Driver-Controlled Operation (DCO) has sparked strikes across the south of England which have caused chaos for commuters over many months.
The RMT and drivers’ union ASLEF are battling the introduction of DCO – also known as Driver Only Operation ( DOO) – across the country.
Responding to Mersytravel’s decision, the RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “Merseytravel has decided that it can’t afford to run safe trains with guards, so it intends to run unsafe ones. They are ramming DOO down our throats.
“RMT has made it clear that we will do whatever is necessary to defend the safety of our members and the travelling public.
“If Scotrail can introduce new trains and retain guards, then so can Merseyrail.
“We will now be seeking assurances from Merseyrail that it has no intention of removing safetytrained guards from any of its trains.”
A Merseytravel spokesperson said: “DCO means that all operational train functions will be managed and monitored by the driver, including the opening and closing of train doors. The regulator, The Office for Rail and Road (ORR), considers DCO to be a safe method of working and so does the Rail Safety Standards Board (the RSSB).
“Importantly, DCO is not about removing the guards and keeping everything else the same, but using modern technologies and new processes to transform how the train operates.
“Many suburban ‘commuter’ networks and all Metro networks in the UK are DCO, including Wear Metro and London Underground – which has been DCO for 30 years.
“In terms of ‘light rail’ the Manchester Metrolink is also DCO. Around 60- 70% of all rail passenger journeys in the UK are on DCO networks and it is also used extensively across Europe.”
Computer generated image of how a new Merseyrail train will look when it comes into action in 2020, and, inset right, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson