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News

Merseyrail Response to Rail Regulator Principles for Driver-Controlled Operation

General Interest

05 April 2017
There is no need to go ahead with the damaging Grand National strike, which will only bring misery to local people and hurt the reputation of our city region on its biggest day of the year. I’m calling on the RMT to suspend this strike action today and sit down with us in meaningful talks.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde

Merseyrail managing director

Responding to the independent Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) principles for driver-controlled operation (DCO) published this morning, managing director of Merseyrail, Jan Chaudhry-van de Velde, said:

‘This is good news for our region. It proves beyond doubt that the approach Merseytravel and Merseyrail are taking in buying and introducing these new trains, exceeds the rigorous safety standards set by the independent regulator. The RMT’s concerns about the operation of the doors and the despatch of the trains have been comprehensively addressed by the ORR, who worked with the trade unions to draw up these safety principles.

‘Importantly, it makes clear that the safety of DCO should no longer be the subject for argument. The question should not be who opens and close the doors, but how staff can be best deployed on-board. We have plenty of time - three years until the trains are introduced in 2020 - to discuss and agree this with the unions.

‘That is why there is no need to go ahead with the damaging Grand National strike, which will only bring misery to local people and hurt the reputation of our city region on its biggest day of the year. I’m calling on the RMT to suspend this strike action today and sit down with us in meaningful talks. We want to work with the RMT to discuss what the role of the new on board staff looks like and our guarantee, subject to successful negotiation, that any of our existing guards who wish to stay with the company will have a job on the same pay and benefits. We have time to work together to get this right.

‘We are 100 per cent confident that our new trains will be safer than the ones they replace in every way, whether that be train operation and dispatch, in the event of an incident or personal security.’

The ORR principles are set out below, with an explanation of how Merseyrail’s new trains meet the requirement.

1. Trains need to be compatible with the platforms that they use and the method of operation at these platforms.
The £460m being invested in the new train project includes extensive modifications to platforms and/or tracks to allow level access on the trains by means of a sliding step. The design of the train with a lower level floor and wider body also greatly reduces the gap between train and platform edge.

2. Station platforms need to be compatible with the trains using them and they must support the methods of operation.
As above, the £460m being invested in the new train project includes extensive modifications to platforms and/or tracks to allow level access on the trains my means of a sliding step. The design of the train with a lower level floor and wider body also greatly reduces the gap between train and platform edge.

3. The nature of the operation with the train and platform need to be assessed. This includes consideration of passenger needs and behaviour.
Infrastructure and train improvements effectively remove the gap between the train and platform edge. Passenger safety will be further enhanced by a traffic light system clearly indicating to passengers when it is safe to board. There will also be audible indicators and PA systems within and on the outside of the trains. A state of the art CCTV system will ensure the driver is clearly able to see all the doors and the platform/train interface while the train is at the station and also when leaving the platform.

4. Staff should be trained and competent.
We will have a comprehensive training programme developed and implemented for all our staff working with the new trains, and this programme will be specific to our network and our trains.

5. The implementation should be planned.
The implementation is thoroughly planned with key milestones leading up to the introduction of the trains in three years’ time (2020).

6. The system should be managed through its whole life, with improvements adopted.
This is part of the implementation plan we have in place.

As part of the procurement process, Merseytravel stipulated that bidders should address the recommendations made by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB), following the investigation into the fatality at James Street station in 2011. The bidders were asked to:

1. Enable the safe dispatch of the train, taking into account any curved platforms or other features which could hinder visibility of the platform edge and train.

2. Take into account recommendations of relevant RAIB reports including that relating to the James St fatality

  • To reduce train dispatch risk by improving the way in which trains are operated
  • To reduce the likelihood of falls through the platform edge gap
  • Give consideration to enabling the person responsible for train dispatch to observe the Passenger Train Interface (PTI) for as long as possible, ideally until the train has left the platform, as well as to enabling the person dispatching the train to stop the train directly and quickly in an emergency.

3. Allow on board staff to undertake meaningful passenger facing duties.

Read more about strike action and the new Merseyrail trains here