ASLEF's response to ORR report

05 January 2017

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, today responded to the ORR report on DOO. Mick said: ‘Despite what Southern Railways is disingenuously claiming, the report from the Office of Rail and Road does not give driver only operation a clean bill of health. It doesn’t say it is safe, merely that it can be safe.

‘You will notice that Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, is careful to qualify his remarks and say “with suitable equipment, proper procedures, and competent staff in place” it can be a method of working. And, indeed, Ian goes on to say that the ORR has made a long list of recommendations for further improvements because they fear it is not safe. Those recommendations, the company concedes, are not yet in place.

‘The ORR says, on visibility [point 8] that “not all stations meet this requirement”. It also says [point 11] that it has identified stations that suffer from dangerous overcrowding and “the viewing corridor will be difficult for the driver to observe and carry out the train safety check”.

‘The company seems to expect drivers to operate trains which it knows are unsafe –because it concedes the work the ORR wants done has not yet been completed –which proves, yet again, that this is all about putting profit before passenger safety.

‘The truth is that passengers, every time they are asked, want a second safety-critical person on their trains. On board to help the elderly, the young, and the disabled. The company, which doesn’t seem to care what passengers to think, want to take us one step closer to losing that second role.’

Mick added: ‘Comparisons with Thameslink – always being made by the company – are meaningless because Thameslink trains have station staff dispatch on every platform while Southern does not. In the Southern area, many stations are unmanned, or undermanned.

‘The industry’s approach is also spectacularly inconsistent. New rolling stock on four more franchises – Great Western, East Coast, Greater Anglia and TransPennine Express – has been procured with no provision for DOO. Because they know it’s not safe.’

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