Rail Strike Threat

Many of you will have seen the stuff in local press re unions threatening strike action. This is the first spat in what could end up with Greater Anglia becoming 'the next Southern'.

The new trains to be delivered in 2019 will be fitted with the new-style Driver Only Operation equipment (as e.g. introduced on London Overground in 2016) which uses cameras on the train cab exterior, and the driver looking at a screen in the cab to see when it is safe to close the doors (driver also opens doors). Instead of the big mirrors and cameras on station platforms used hitherto. (Which we don't have between Colchr and Clacton/Walton, hence all trains currently still having conductors on board here, who have to open and close the doors from the rear cab).

GA were saying that they have undertaken to retain conductors on all trains that currently have them, and that the Unions have accepted this position. But as we see in the Papers the unions are saying that GA haven't given such an undertaking and they haven't accepted it. [Or something such - it all gets very arcane].

The actual need, or absence of need, for a conductor relates to (a) whether it is 'safe' for a driver to be closing doors on the basis of this new system, and (b) whether it is desirable to have a conductor anyway to check that passengers have tickets / issue tickets to those who haven't been able to buy them at the station of boarding (all more significant now that GA are proposing to shut the majority of ticket offices).

But the REAL dispute politically speaking is that the government is using Southern (which is not a normal franchise, but directly controlled by the department) as a 'test case' for imposing major anti-staff and anti-passenger new practices to reduce operating costs [which is easier than tackling the endemic massive cost inflations introduced by the Major government's balkanising of the system] , so neither side is inspired to concede anything, because it affects the future methods on large parts of the system where DOO is not yet in place.

Anyway, one can talk till the cows come home about the pros and cons, but the major point for anyone heareabouts is that it could result in us becoming the next place for endless strikes, service reductions, etc etc. And unlike many of the passengers on Southern, people at Colchester line stations have NO alternative stations on other franchises' lines to go to, to get to London!




















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Comments

  • kstkst
    edited August 18
    So who gains from the saving of not having conductors ?
    The government or the franchisee mostly owned by foreign investors ?
  • Why do you say anti staff and anti passenger practices? Surely using technology to reduce costs is pro passenger as they end up paying the price for arcane working practices in the face of new technology.

    This, if it happens is about the unions wanting to keep their members jobs and their own power.

    But enough of the rant, the real issue for this forum is what alternative transport options do we have? It would be useful to know where is the nearest other operator station we could drive too, could we arrange a pool car arrangement? What about buses- oh god the A12! Maybe too early for this but would be good to know. 
  • edited August 19
    I prefer to interact with people rather than technology, so view the replacement of the former by the latter as "anti passenger".  One also doubts that any cost saving from technology would be passed on to the commuter. Have inflation-busting ticket price rises not just been announced?

    It may be unpopular to defend unions, but is not their role to protect their members' jobs and working conditions?

    As Peter suggests, I don't see any viable alternatives to achieve the daily commute to London.

  • adrian said:
    I prefer to interact with people rather than technology, so view the replacement of the former by the latter as "anti passenger".  One also doubts that any cost saving from technology would be passed on to the commuter. Have inflation-busting ticket price rises not just been announced?

    It may be unpopular to defend unions, but is not their role to protect their members' jobs and working conditions?

    As Peter suggests, I don't see any viable alternatives to achieve the daily commute to London.

    I see your point Adrian. Perhaps rather than anti passenger you should suggest anti those passengers that wish to interact with a guard. 

    And yes unions should defend their members jobs but is a reasonable way, I believe southern did garauntee no redundancies. I suspect it's about future members, technology does not take our union membership.

    alas no options for alternative travel, I feared as much!
  • Peter also referred to the closing of ticket offices; many passengers - regular or occasional - might acknowledge the benefits of interacting with knowledgable and helpful staff, such as those at Wivenhoe station. There is also the broader issue of technology increasingly making humans "redundant" - a pachyderm our elected representatives appear not to see in the room, so focussed are they on cutting costs.
     
    My point, Joe, was that perhaps the unions should not be so readily viewed as the villains in this nascent dispute.
     
  • Neither the unions nor the employer be assumed to be the villains.

    Poor negotiation skills on either or both sides is what brings about undesirable solutions than any lack of good faith.

    Then that leads to distrust and short-sighted position-based bargaining...
  • peterkay said:
    Many of you will have seen the stuff in local press re unions threatening strike action. This is the first spat in what could end up with Greater Anglia becoming 'the next Southern'.

    The new trains to be delivered in 2019 will be fitted with the new-style Driver Only Operation equipment (as e.g. introduced on London Overground in 2016) which uses cameras on the train cab exterior, and the driver looking at a screen in the cab to see when it is safe to close the doors (driver also opens doors). Instead of the big mirrors and cameras on station platforms used hitherto. (Which we don't have between Colchr and Clacton/Walton, hence all trains currently still having conductors on board here, who have to open and close the doors from the rear cab).

    GA were saying that they have undertaken to retain conductors on all trains that currently have them, and that the Unions have accepted this position. But as we see in the Papers the unions are saying that GA haven't given such an undertaking and they haven't accepted it. [Or something such - it all gets very arcane].

    The actual need, or absence of need, for a conductor relates to (a) whether it is 'safe' for a driver to be closing doors on the basis of this new system, and (b) whether it is desirable to have a conductor anyway to check that passengers have tickets / issue tickets to those who haven't been able to buy them at the station of boarding (all more significant now that GA are proposing to shut the majority of ticket offices).

    But the REAL dispute politically speaking is that the government is using Southern (which is not a normal franchise, but directly controlled by the department) as a 'test case' for imposing major anti-staff and anti-passenger new practices to reduce operating costs [which is easier than tackling the endemic massive cost inflations introduced by the Major government's balkanising of the system] , so neither side is inspired to concede anything, because it affects the future methods on large parts of the system where DOO is not yet in place.

    Anyway, one can talk till the cows come home about the pros and cons, but the major point for anyone heareabouts is that it could result in us becoming the next place for endless strikes, service reductions, etc etc. And unlike many of the passengers on Southern, people at Colchester line stations have NO alternative stations on other franchises' lines to go to, to get to London!



















    Thank you Peter for giving an informative overview of the situation, as well as possible future events.  We get details from you which no "journalist" communicates.
  • adrian said:
    There is also the broader issue of technology increasingly making humans "redundant" - a pachyderm our elected representatives appear not to see in the room, so focussed are they on cutting costs. 

    If we carry on automating everything we won't need any trains because there won't be any jobs, or any money for people to spend, or need for things to be made, or need to automate anything.

    The Russell's paradox of automation

    Time for some Tools for Conviviality
  • Jobs for life ? Thought that was a thing of the past.

    As new technology comes in, people HAVE to adapt and if they won't - Redundancy - and employ someone who is willing to be a ticket inspectors/traincare or whatever
  • Often on the line from Wivenhoe into London I have seen the guard have to stop inspecting tickets and hotfoot it up to the front of the set of carriages to work the doors.  Seems to me better by far to have the driver control the doors, leaving the guard - if there is one - to get on with checking tickets, telling people to take their feet off the seats, etc.  From what I can see not all our trains have a guard anyway.
  • On Southern the problems/delays on the lines predated the strike action, and continue to happen. TFL offered to take over the line, but the government refused.

    The strike action occurred because of safety concerns. The company wanted to move to automated door closures but the unions say that the trains are too long and there are too many passengers for this to be safe. What they wanted was an independent oversight of these claims, because the rail company was making changes based on evidence they themselves had generated.

    People can attribute nefarious motivations to this argument if they like, but there is a relationship between human oversight and safety. I personally believe that the unions are the only body standing in the way of plummeting standards and a major disaster.

    I do get irritated when I hear hard working men and women casually abused and criticised in the press and among the privileged for standing up for their rights and indeed all our interests, when they are never paid what they deserve and are constantly having to defend the terms and conditions of their employment.

    And as for needing to adapt to technology. I once interviewed a CEO who matter of factly talked about a lost generation as a result of technological 'progress', who would live their lives with no meaningful contribution and would be forced to exist on the breadline. These people were just so many numbers for this CEO, part of the profit/loss calculation. But we don't have to think in this way. We can have technology and put people first.
  • I would suggest that there is no relationship between human oversight and safety. Many of the worlds disasters have been attributed to human error.

    Also, the fact remains that no one has a right to a job. So workers sticking up for their rights does not include striking to retain their job, their conditions yes but not their job.

    It would be interesting to explore further how many train disasters have been caused by human error of technology error. 
  • kstkst
    edited August 20
    I travel regularly on the London Overground, Stratford to Clapham ( like the north circular of therailway.
    There are no guards and the number of passengers  on these trains off peak, let alone peak times far surpasses the numbers on our stretch. Clacton/Walton to Colchester,
    I'm not aware of any major safety issues that have arisen
  • There have been may instances of technology failing. The Dockland Light Railway train that made a bid to go for a swim in the Thames at the end of the line is one case that sticks in the mind. 

    Ultimately "technology" can only mirror the human input to the system and has the added danger that the artificial intelligence can create unpredictable outcomes.  

    I've been watching this story for a while, there's no evidence that it will become another "Southern" at present, it's a leap of faith being made by newspaper subs doing their jobs (selling papers and getting "clicks" on their websites. 

    That's not to say the situation doesn't need to be monitored.
  • Big difference with the failure on the DLR, the trains don't have a driver 
  • re above

    On the Overground the trains are 5 cars only. One of the questions is how well can the driver looking at a monitor in the cab really see what is going on at the back end of a 8 or 12 car train in rain or snow or whatever. Certainly not as much as a conductor who has been standing on the platform, or leaning out of the window, throughout the time when passgrs are alighting and boarding.  [The new trains for the Colchester-Walton local service will be 5 cars so that is less problematic].

    [Drivers on Southern DOO trains already operating under the new system, I am told by an acquaintance who is a conductor there, tend to mostly rely on the incab screen only, and only a few stick their head out of the window at the time of door shutting].

    Wivenhoe with its very r/h-curved up platform has to also have a station staff member with baton to see trains away. But cf such as Thorpe le Soken which they now want to destaff completely yet the station buildings are in the way of seeing the rear of a long train from the front.

    Door-shutting risk is a lot re people who arrive on the platform at the last second.

    If you don't have people checking tickets ontrain on  a line with unstaffed (or unstaffed-after-lunchtime) stations, or barriers left unstaffed after 1800, you are liable to end up with a yobs' free travel railway, exactly as we did in summer 2007 after the Conductor Yarwood scandal, with Clacton and Colchester yobs 'occupying' Wiv station every evening after arriving on a 'free evening travel return'.
         [According to GA of course, but not according to the Unions,  they are still going to have a conductor checking and issuing tkts on our local service post-2019, and indeed if so they will be able to do that job much better if they have no door responsibilities].

    The ticket checking/issuing  does not of course have to be done by the person who closes the doors, and indeed the Liv St - Colchester section has long had DOO, under the original system, and only travelling ticket checkers (when they appear at all).

    Train drivers ARE part of the privileged now! They earn twice as much, and have twice as much holiday pa,  as the average passenger does [well, perhaps not so much on a line with lots of City Chaps, but....].  A long long way from the days of BR when rail staff all earned less than average wage for equivalent jobs.
        [Indeed one of the original arguments for starting driver-only operation in the 70s and 80s was the great shortage of guards, because few people would work for the low BR pay, which led to a massive level of train cancellations on some suburban lines, especially evenings and weekends].

    The knowledge of the now-privileged position of drivers, plus the current rail union spokesmen talking and looking like 1970s politicised union hacks of the sort that caused everybody to vote for Thatcher in 1979 because they were sick of endless strikes everywhere **, alienates the public from the union / 'safety' side of the argument and thereby distracts attention away from Tory central government's direct responsibility for much of  the 'Southern' situation.

    [Now if only the Unions would have the sense to get more reasonable-looking/sounding people to present a case to the public.....]

    Indeed it is all very early days still on the GA side of the situation.


    ** Under-50s will need to consult the older generation on that!














  • Underground runs fine without guards for many years. 
  • edited August 21
    I don't know about fine -  I have seen many, many cases of people getting shut in the doors......
  • Most of the time through impatience.
  • ...or overcrowding...?
  • No - on many of the occasions that i witnessed it, the carriage was nearly empty.
    I think that perhaps people took a gamble - or more likely, they simply didn't realise that the doors were about to close.
  • All doors on trains are pressure sensitive, so although it might "grab you", normally the doors reopen, unless the door is set up wrongly.  
  • It's always amazed me that you generally only see people fight the doors at stations with more frequent services. So where it should be less of an issue if you miss a train. 

    Chelmsford is a common one on my commute.
  • Another example to add to Mike's.

    It amazes me that so many people on a plane jump to it within a second of the seatbelt sign going off even though they know full well that:
    a) The doors won't be open for another few minutes
    b) They are some way back down the plane with others ahead of them and
    c) Their baggage won't be on the carousel for a while yet.

    I would imagine many of these people also have a daily commute that is expensive, crowded and congested rather than negotiate an engagement where their travelling time is cheaper, more comfortable, less stressful and makes their work more productive. Perhaps some may even harness communication technology in such a way as to reduce wasted time, energy and money on travel which may on occasions be of limited value...?

    Nowt so queer as folk they say...

    Apologies for appearing to go off track. I guess the point I am making is that most impasses result from people's inability to see past their own short-sighted position and aim for a solution that suits all.

    When this behaviour is widely exhibited in such crass ways as we have all seen on public transport, it is no wonder we make such little progress as a society.
  • No, completely agree Glyn. Back to the trains, there are a number of Wivenhonianists who jump up the moment the train leaves Hythe in order to be first off at Wivenhoe. They're the first to huff and puff if the train has to stop at a signal before getting to the station. It must save them seconds. I get to see, first hand, the short-sightedness of the human race in my job, you end up wondering how people manage to dress themselves, let alone get a job. Some of them make it to a surprisingly high level in their organisations.
  • Please note the number of cancellations 'due to no train crew member' has now increased, including Mons-Fris. Including both Liv St and local trains on this line. The No Overtime and work-to-rule is now official (I think?). The shortage of drivers [which is real] has been created by management, on the basis that overtime working would cover it.

    The (some of the?) cancellations are given in advance on the journeycheck website which is also accessible via the GA website. You should not travel without checking this. (Well, except at Mon-Fri peak times when you don't have long to wait till the next train].

    [Incidentally on the station plfm this morning it was noticeable that several people had come to go to London without have checked whether trains were actually running to Liv St! Given that they don't do so half the time at w/ends, one might have expecting everyone to be checking by now.....]

  • Firstly drivers are in the main members of ASLEF, ASLEF aren't in dispute with Greater Anglia so there is no work to rule or overtime ban in respect of drivers. However as I understand it Clacton depot is currently short of its full driver compliment, (shades of Ryanair, just joking!) for what ever reason(s), which is resulting in some cancellations. Though some do not materialise as demonstrated on Friday afternoon when the 16:14 from London was advertised as terminating at Colchester, but did in fact run through to Clacton, (slightly delayed), with a driver from Ipswich taking it forward. 

    Again my understanding is that additional drivers are in training and the shortage should be resolved before the end of the year.

    And no I don't work for GA but do keep my ears and eyes open when travelling. 
  • Eight Wivenhoe London or local trains advertised as cancelled so far today. 

    Shortage of drivers didn't just start this month! but the 'no driver' cancellations started at same time as [RMT] strike threats started.

  • To add to Alfie's comment. Well worth checking on the National Rail site just before you head to the station. I've yet to experience a cancellation on my commute but don't take a chance.

    Full peak service this morning by the looks of things. 
  • edited October 24
    It started out that way @Mike, but due to an "Operating Incident" at LST, they threw us off the 08.03 from Wivenhoe when we got to Shenfield. Seems they were cutting out every other train so said "Wait on Platform 2; a LST train will be along in 3 minutes" ... and to be fair, it did. Problem was that our train was 8 carriages and the one that trundled in from Southminster was only 4. Delay repay here I come!!
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