DOO briefing for MSP's

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Keep the Guard on ScotRail

What are the company’s proposals?

Scottish Government owned and managed ScotRail has stated its intention to roll out Driver Only Operation (DOO, sometimes referred to as DCO) on the Barrhead, East Kilbride and Kilmarnock lines.

These routes are currently operated with a safety critical guard on board all services who is responsible for despatch.

RMT is opposing ScotRail’s plans to extend DOO, and we believe this will worsen passenger safety, security and accessibility.

Whilst the current proposals relate to the routes listed above, there’s nothing to suggest that if ScotRail was successful in extending DOO to these routes that it would stop there. It is therefore of vital importance for all of Scotland’s railway that the proposals are scrapped.

What’s the difference between guard operation and DOO?

Under conventional guard operation, all services have a safety critical guard on board who is responsible for despatching services. Under DOO the driver has full responsibility for despatch and the train can run without a second member of staff on board.

Therefore, crucially, DOO removes the guarantee that there will be a second member of staff on board all services.

Bizarrely, the company has tried to argue what they are proposing is not DOO because they will still roster a second person on all services, but it is simply not true that this isn’t DOO. Whilst a second person would be rostered on all services, if they are unavailable for any reason, the train will still run. There would also be no requirement for the second

February 2024

member of staff to be safety critical. On the parts of the network which are already DOO, our members report that services often run without a second person on board. The requirement on ScotRail is only to take ‘reasonable endeavours’ to have a second member of staff on board.

Impact on safety, security and accessibility of DOO

As well as being the eyes-and-ears of the rail network at the crucial Passenger/Train Interface, guards are currently trained to comply with the railway rulebook which equips them to deal with numerous safety and key operational functions on our railway. In the case of emergencies or difficulties they can step in to make sure the public are safe when travelling on the railway. These skills and knowledge include an understanding of the risks associated with working on electrified lines, track safety, dealing with a train accident or train evacuation, failed trains, managing incidents, single line working, signalling systems and signalling regulations, station duties and train despatch, speeds, track possessions, train defects, on train equipment, dealing with fires, dealing with suspect packages and route indications. When there is an emergency, the guard can take charge especially if the train driver is incapacitated.

Furthermore, DOO has a significant impact on the accessibility of the railway by removing the guarantee of a second member of staff on board. This restricts disabled and older passengers’ ability to exercise their legal right to Turn Up and Go, particularly at unstaffed or partially staffed stations. Furthermore, DOO risks denying passengers assistance services on board during their journeys. For these reasons, disabled peoples’ organisations have consistently opposed DOO where it has been proposed.

Retaining a guard on these services is particularly important given that 70% of stations along the three affected routes are unstaffed (this is significantly higher than the national average of 45% stations being unstaffed). This means that if DOO were rolled out on these routes, passengers at the majority of stations along these lines would be faced with the ‘toxic combination’ of unstaffed stations and DOO. The reality is that there could be no staff available to assist them.

There is already a high prevalence of anti-social and violent behaviour on Scotland’s railway and this stands to increase if guards are no longer guaranteed on these services. Our guard members report regularly intervening in instances of ASB and abusive behaviour, and situations would likely escalate if there was no staff on board to assist. The Scottish Government’s own research into women and girls’ safety, published in March 2023 in fact recommended that the Scottish Government increase staffing on-board and at stations. Yet, what is being proposed is the converse.

What is the Scottish Government’s role?

In response to parliamentary questions, the Scottish Government has stated that this is an ‘operational matter’ for ScotRail This is the same stance it took in our 2016 guards dispute. Yet, crucially this time, the Scottish Government owns and manages ScotRail and it can instruct the company to scrap these plans at any time.

In contrast to the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government which also runs its rail services in public ownership, has committed to retaining a safety critical guard on all rail


Transport for Wales Rail Services. Rather than trying to remove guards from trains, the Scottish Government should be committing to putting a safety critical guard back on all services that are currently operated under DOO.

Has ScotRail tried to extend DOO before?

Yes, RMT has had previous industrial disputes with ScotRail as a result of attempts to extend DOO. Most recently in 2016, with previous operator Abellio. In response to plans to extend DOO, RMT members took a number of days industrial action. This dispute successfully defeated the threat of DOO and resulted in a signed agreement between the RMT and ScotRail that there would be no more DOO on ScotRail routes. This agreement is clear that it would transfer over to any future operator.

It is therefore disappointing that the now publicly owned ScotRail and the Scottish Government are now attempting to ignore this 2016 collective agreement by tabling fresh proposals for DOO. This approach is clearly not conducive to effective industrial relations.

What can MSPs do?

• Write to the Transport Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP and the CEO of ScotRail Joanne Maguire to register your opposition to these proposals and to state your support for keeping the guard on ScotRail.

• Considering signing motion S6M-11780.

• Attend RMT’s drop-in for MSPs on Wednesday 13th March 2024, from 12pm –1.45pm in room Q1.04 to hear more about our concerns and why we are opposing these proposals.

Contact – Sophie Ward, National Policy Officer

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