According to a Transport Committee report published last year, the cause of the dispute is the extension of ‘Driver Only Operation’ (DOO) to a greater proportion of its services. DOO entails the driver of the train, rather than an on-board conductor, having responsibility for opening and closing the doors at stations, using cab-mounted cameras and monitors to check that it is safe to do so. Alongside the introduction of DOO for train doors, GTR (Govia Thameslink Railway, which owns Southern) is replacing conductors and revenue-control inspectors and replacing both roles with a new role of “on-board supervisor” (OBS). The rail unions have opposed DOO and related changes to the role of conductors. Between April 2016 and the publication of the report in October 2016, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) conducted strikes on Southern Railway on nine days.
The RMT’s key stated concern about the effect of the extension of DOO, and the introduction of the OBS role, is about passenger safety. The union is concerned that the new OBS role will not, unlike the current conductor role on some non-DOO services, be “safety critical”—it claims that, while the OBS will receive safety training, their presence on the train will not be considered essential, and trains can be dispatched without them on board. Therefore the RMT argues that, on DOO services, there is no guarantee of a second staff member on the train to deal with emergency incidents such as fires and suspect packages. However, official rail industry studies, by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and the ORR, have broadly endorsed the safety of DOO (House of Commons Transport Committee, The Future of Rail: Improving the Rail Passenger Experience, 14 October 2016)
|Full list of RMT and ASLEF Strike dates||483.79 KB|
|Strike days of ASLEF and RMT||483.79 KB|