Talks between the RMT union and Merseyrail have broken down this afternoon. This is a result of the RMT’s refusal to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the new team of on-board staff, or the options open to our guards, ahead of the arrival of the new fleet.
They took an intransigent position and wouldn’t discuss any of the items we put forward, including the guarantee of continued employment for the existing guards on the same salaries as now, salaries which start at £28,000.
Merseyrail’s managing director
The RMT reiterated their stance that there should be a second person deployed on every Merseyrail train, despite having stated previously that the talks did not carry preconditions. Instead, they asked us three questions, prepared in advance.*
We are bitterly disappointed by the outcome of this meeting, but remain committed to resolving the dispute, which will pave the way to the new trains, set to be introduced in 2020.
Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, said: ‘I don’t know why the RMT agreed to our invitation to come in and talk today, unless it was to maintain appearances. They took an intransigent position and wouldn’t discuss any of the items we put forward, including the guarantee of continued employment for the existing guards on the same salaries as now, salaries which start at £28,000.
*The RMT’s Questions and Merseyrail’s Responses
RMT question 1: Will Merseyrail fully comply with the RAIB report recommendation into the James Street fatal accident that under the new fleet, the driver will monitor via in-cab CCTV screens, the full dispatch process uninterrupted until the train is clear of the platform?
Merseyrail’s answer: The RMT question does not accurately reflect the RAIB report recommendations. The approach to the procurement of the new fleet, including method of dispatch and associated equipment has fundamentally been driven by the requirement to meet the RAIB recommendations. The driver is the right person to fulfil this role and will be, responsible for dispatch, and able to observe the platform train interface, via in-cab CCTV screens without interruption.
The RAIB recommendation states this should be for as long as possible, ideally until the train has left the platform. This method of dispatch is already fully covered in Rail Industry Standards and will be subject to full safety validation and risk assessment, to ensure dispatch is undertaken safely. Let’s not forget that driver-only operation (DOO) and monitoring of CCTV has been commonplace on the UK rail network for many years and has been validated as safe by independent regulatory bodies. This arrangement is what RMT drivers on the London Underground currently follow.
RMT’s question 2: Are Merseyrail prepared to financially contribute to any proposals that retain a safety critical, safety trained second member of staff on board the new trains that are able to carry out safety duties during an operational incident, such as train evacuation?
Merseyrail’s answer: Merseyrail already contributes via the profit share mechanism, which is being used to part fund the new trains. The contracts are clear and we will be held financially neutral.
RMT’s question 3: Will there be such a second person on ALL of the new trains?
Merseyrail’s answer: There will not be a second person on all trains, as the intention is that the on-board customer service staff are deployed at key locations and times. But, we are willing to work with the RMT regarding the detail of operational deployment of onboard staff on our network. We would also remind the RMT that there are other staff operating on-board the trains, such as revenue protection staff, security staff, cleaners, as well as the British Transport Police.