what is DOO?
DOO is the abbrevation for ‘Driver Only Operation’, and describes a train which is wholly controlled by one person.
The first DOO working on British Rail, without a guard on board, was in 1982 when the trains for the newly-electrified route between Bedford and London St Pancras and Moorgate (‘Midland Electrics’, or unofficially the ‘BedPan line’) were used without guards’ positions, transferring the control of the doors on the first batch of new Class 317 electric units (built by BREL at York) to the driver’s cab.
The plan to dispense with guards caused a major industrial dispute, and the new trains were declared ‘black’. As a result, they had to be stored unused in sidings at Cricklewood and Bedford for a year after they had been delivered in 1981.
DOO survived, and was then adopted for the following fleet of Thameslink Class 319 trains, introduced in 1988 between Bedford and Brighton. Thameslink included the former Midland Electrics route between Bedford and London.
The practice had not been unknown before 1981, because no guards were ever used on the Tyne & Wear Metro, which had opened in 1980. DOO has since been extended to all London Underground and Overground lines, as well as parts of Chiltern Railways, Southeastern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express. These last two routes form part of the larger Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which also includes Thameslink and Southern.
It was a proposal to remove guards on Southern which triggered a series of damaging strikes from 2016, and disputes over train staffing were in progress in September 2018 on Northern, Southern and South Western Railway.
Southern trains still carry a second member of staff where possible, who is known as an On Board Supervisor, or OBS. The OBS, who is not mandatory, does not control the doors nor give the starting signal to the driver (‘train dispatch’).
This method of working was dubbed DCO by Govia Thameslink Railway in 2016, meaning Driver Controlled Operation, rather than true DOO.
DOO and DCO have been the subject of heated controversy. The industry maintains that these methods are safe, but this is emphatically denied by the RMT union. It also emerged in August 2018 that DPTAC (the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, advising the Department for Transport) had expressed reservations in 2016, particularly where DOO trains were likely to call at stations without platform staff.