Very strong concerns have been raised about the removal of a guaranteed guard on Northern Rail services. I share the concerns that the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union has about these changes to train services.
Introducing Driver Only Operation would mean the driver would be expected to drive the train while at the same time being responsible for passenger safety. The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union is concerned about the introduction of Driver Only Operation trains on Northern Rail and about the safety and security of trains with only one guaranteed member of staff.
I share these concerns and agree that introduction of Driver Only Operation could make train journeys less safe. In particular, I am concerned about the failure to guarantee passenger safety or accessibility for disabled passengers who would face a loss of independence on Driver Operated services.
I am writing to reassure constituents that I oppose any proposals to remove guards from these increasingly busy routes. I am also concerned that Driver Only Operation will mean passengers no longer have a binding safety guarantee from a second member of on-board staff who is fully trained in safety-critical procedures.
I believe train operating companies must listen to the views of passengers and I would like the companies involved to work with the unions to resolve these issues. I believe the Conservative Government must allow Northern the flexibility to reach a settlement that secures a safe, accessible and properly staffed service.