I do, of course, sympathise with passengers whose travel plans are being disrupted by the RMT’s industrial action. Nevertheless, I fully support the RMT campaign to stop Arriva Rail North from introducing Driver Only Operations (DOO) and removing guards from our trains.
I’m very concerned by Arriva Rail North’s plans as train guards play a vital role in supporting and protecting passengers. In particular, removing guards will make travelling by rail more difficult for disabled passengers who may need help to board and leave trains. 85% of RMT guards say that they have helped passengers with a disability at least once a day and the rail industry has admitted that DOO removes the guarantee of assistance for disabled passengers.
What’s more, crime recorded on British railways has increased by almost a fifth in the last year. There were 2,472 sexual offences last year, up 16%, and 11,711 violent crimes, up by 26%. With violent and sexual crime soaring on the railway, removing staff from trains puts all passengers at serious risk.
Providing support to passengers who need it should be a top priority for any rail operator and ensuring that trains are properly staffed is crucial to ensuring that everyone can travel by rail safely.
Other rail companies have committed to keeping guards on their trains and I’m disappointed that Arriva Rail North has not yet followed suit. Workers only ever take strike action as a last resort and I hope that Arriva Rail North will soon agree to put passenger safety first and abandon DOO so that the dispute can be resolved.