Southern Rail's latest ad, with some annotations.
#SouthernBackOnTrack – Safety spun in numbers
Southern Rail – having seemed to have learnt nothing from their disastrous social media campaign yesterday with #southernbackontrack – have come back for more of a metaphorical kicking. In today’s Metro Southern’s advert ‘Safety in numbers’ attempts to mislead the public on the safety element of the dispute with RMT.
Southern want to remove guards from trains and replace some with ‘on-board supervisors’ and also extend driver only operated trains.
According to Southern, the Rail and Standards Board (RSSB) confirms that it’s safe for the driver to close the train doors. What they don’t tell you is that for driver only operated trains the RSSB says, “…..there may be changes to the risk profile, in terms of the likelihood of events occurring, or the severity of their consequences”. Rail unions state that at present the technology isn’t there yet to run driver only operations safely, even it were desirable form a passenger perspective. They believe that there needs to be additional technological safeguards if the driver is the only operator.
Guards being on trains means there are two ‘safety-critical’ members of staff on board. On-board supervisors won’t get the same level of safety training as a guard and so won’t be ‘safety-critical’. So to answer Southern’s question in their advert: ‘Yes – this dispute is about safety’.
Southern’s advert highlights that a number of trains already run nationally with the driver in control of the doors. As mentioned above – this doesn’t mean it’s the safest option. Our railways are busier now than they ever have been. Platforms and trains are more and more over-crowded. In the last 15 years alone passenger numbers on Southern have increased by 64% from 116m to 191m per year. This huge rise in numbers means that at the platform-train interface there are inevitable increased risks to passenger safety. So – logically you’d think that a company that was genuinely concerned about passenger safety would conclude in these changing times – we need more properly trained staff on our railways – not less.
I’ve seen it suggested that a full page ad in the Metro costs around £30k. Two yesterday, plus two in the Standard, and another two half-pages today. It looks like Southern Rail have spent £150,000 so far in denouncing their own staff in the press. Is that coming from the government’s £20m investment to turn around the failing line? Or from their parent group’s £99.8m profits after some eye-watering taxpayer subsidies? Wherever the cash is coming from, both guards and passengers could no doubt find better ways to spend it to help get Southern back on track.