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2003-03-03 STG-001
Stagecoach Group

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Stagecoach group condemns unnecessary RMT guards dispute


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Stagecoach Group

Stagecoach group condemns unnecessary RMT guards dispute
_______________________________________________________________


date
3 March 2003
source Stagecoach Group
type Press release



Stagecoach Group warned today (3 March 2003) that a proposal by the RMT to take industrial action across most of Britain’s rail network over the role of the guard is unnecessary and will not in itself improve railway safety.

The company, which operates South West Trains, the UK’s biggest franchise, as well as Island Line, said the RMT was not following the agreed industry process for addressing safety issues by balloting members for strike action over the issue.

A number of risk assessments prepared on behalf of the Association of Train Operating Companies have already concluded that the changes proposed by the RMT are less safe than the existing rules.

Railway Safety has already rejected the first joint submission from RMT and GNER for a rule change, because the approach did not follow the industry process and is not supported by safety justification.

Stagecoach also reaffirmed that it intends to retain guards on all its passenger trains, which many other operators have withdrawn, because it believes railway safety should also extend to the security of passengers.

Graham Eccles, Executive Director Rail at Stagecoach Group, said: “Safety is the absolute priority on our passenger rail franchises. We will not propose or support a change to the rules that we believe would worsen the safety of our railway operations, despite the fact that other companies may be prepared to do so for their own purposes.

“We have given the RMT our written assurance that we intend to retain guards on all our passenger trains. Most other train operating companies in London and the South East run ‘driver-only operated’ trains without a guard. Stagecoach believes guards have a key safety role in terms of passenger security and, despite the significant additional operational costs, we employ them on our services.

“There is absolutely no need for industrial action at either South West Trains or Island Line, despite our disagreement with the position of the RMT. There is no threat to the livelihood or earnings of any of our people, nor is there any threat to the safety of our railway operations in either the short-term or the long-term.

“We would urge the RMT and other train operating companies to follow the industry process designed to ensure continuously improving railway safety. If Railway Safety, the body responsible for these issues, makes any changes to the rules on the role of the guard, we will abide by their decision and the new rules.”

Mr Eccles added: “If we are faced with strike action, Stagecoach will operate as many of its train services as possible using other fully trained and competent staff in place of guards. We will also supplement those train services that do run with an extensive bus and coach operation.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Graham Eccles, Executive Director Rail, Stagecoach Group, 01738 442111
Steven Stewart, Head of Media and Public Affairs, Stagecoach Group, 01738 442111
John Kiely, Smithfield Financial, 0207 360 4900

NOTE TO EDITORS

The dispute between the RMT and train operators over the “role of the guard” is a national issue, which has running since 1997. The RMT want to reverse some safety rule changes implemented by Railway Safety in 1997 that transferred some of the guard’s operational duties in case of an emergency to the driver of the train, allowing the Guard to remain with the train in most circumstances to care for the passengers.

Railway Safety has declined to reverse these safety rules because a series of independent risk assessments has shown that the changes have enhanced safety and it would be wrong to return to a less safe state.

There is a process within the railway industry for proposing changes to the safety rules. Any member of the railway group, including its trades unions, can propose changes to safety rules by setting out the details and the safety justification, normally in the form of a quantified risk assessment. Railway Safety will then evaluate the proposals, consult the industry and then act in the best interests of the safety of the passengers and people who work in the industry.



Railhub Archive ::: 2003-03-03 STG-001





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