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Thursday 17th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

RAIL regulators must reverse the whole guard deskilling programme on Britain’s worst-performing railway, unions demanded yesterday after Southern bosses staged a partial retreat on plans.

Govia Thameslink Railway’s Southern division has been embroiled in a bitter industrial dispute over its reclassification of conductors as “on-board supervisors.”

Under the scheme, control of train dispatch was transferred from conductors to platform staff — allowing trains to be run without a second on-board crew member.

Now Southern has issued a “special notice” to staff appearing to row back on some of the changes — but still allowing for trains to be operated without an on-board supervisor. Rail union RMT has said this could lead to “potentially lethal consequences.”

The new guidance says supervisors must check platforms for disabled passengers and can take control of the train doors to assist the process.

The union has urged the Office of Rail and Road to implement “an immediate halt” to Southern’s introduction of the new operational system, along with a safety review and fresh talks with unions.

“The bottom line is that the company is effectively admitting that they have got it wrong, and that, in order to maintain safety and access, they need a second, safety-critical member of staff on these trains” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said.

“If the company had seen sense and simply accepted that fact in the talks with the union, as we requested, we could have reached a settlement.”

A Southern spokesman said: “There is a world of difference between checking for someone who needs assistance and dispatching a train. Freed up from the operational responsibility for closing the doors, our on-board supervisors will be 100 per cent focused on assisting.”