We want to talk about modernising with RMT, guaranteeing jobs and pay for our 1,300 conductors for at least the next seven years, until the end of our franchise. The more strike action continues the harder it is for Northern to give long-term assurances and commitments.
Our plans will see staff more visible and available than ever before on trains and at stations. We want to keep a second person on many of our services and, at some locations, we may choose to staff the station to give better customer support. We are investing in people and systems to make the railway even safer; for example, we now have 55 Travel Safe Officers who work on trains and at stations to help prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour.
Safety is a top priority. On Driver Controlled Operation in particular, Britain’s most senior railway safety inspector says it is a safe way of working, and this way of running trains is in regular use across the network in the UK and abroad. Any changes we want to make to services or our stations are fully risk assessed, widely discussed, and approved in accordance with relevant legislation.
DCO means that the driver opens and closes the train doors. Who operates the doors is separate from how we might choose to staff trains with a second person in the future.
We can reduce the amount of time spent at stations, which gives customers a better service and brings performance benefits, especially on congested routes. It enables on-board staff to focus on customer service and revenue protection rather than operational duties, which means they are more visible and available to customers.
We are unable to predict how long RMT’s dispute will last. We have again proposed to RMT that they set aside what appears to be a co-ordinated campaign in return for assurances over jobs and pay, and exploring with us what future roles will look like. We are frustrated at the lack of progress in talks as business and communities are behind our modernisation and investment plans and we want RMT to back this too.
This is the biggest improvement to local rail services for a generation, including new trains, more services and better stations. This will mean changes to roles to provide more support to customers, in addition to protecting jobs and pay for existing conductors - but those guarantees cannot last forever.
Northern has embarked on a programme to modernise its services that will help make the North a better place in which to live and work. By 2020 Northern is committed to:
- Delivering better journeys with new and updated trains and improved station facilities
- Better customer service, with more people to help you on your journey than ever before
- Keeping you safe and secure, with more visible staff on trains and stations – day and night
Our plans include 98 new trains, 243 updated trains and the recruitment of more people from across our business:
- Our new trains are in production
- 30 of our upgraded trains are already out on the network, and
- over 450 new people have joined our team since April 2016
To bring our improvements to life, we are proposing changes to modernise the conductor role to give you a better service. We are clear there will be no job or pay cuts as a result of our proposed changes, however the RMT has entered into dispute with Northern, which has resulted in several days of strike action, so far, during 2017.