DURING the current strikes on Arriva Northern trains the company is handing out leaflets to passengers at stations saying: “Modernising your train journey means making changes to how we support our customers, including the conductor’s role.”

The truth is no one is opposed to modernisation, indeed RMT union members have been on the front line when it’s come to campaigning for new trains, more trains and more seats, but these strikes are all about safety.

RMT wants a guarantee that a safety critical and operationallytrained guard will be on all trains in passenger service, that’s the current arrangement. Arriva Northern trains and the Government want to scrap that guarantee.

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At the moment guards are trained and qualified in some 30-plus roles, including train evacuations, dealing with fires, train failures, and in the event that a driver is incapacitated, guards can step in to protect the train and the passengers. But Northern have accepted a franchise specification from the Government that says at least 50 per cent of services can be operated under DCO the new name for Driver Only Operation - at the moment on Northern it’s 0 per cent.

Guards don’t just carry out a key safety role. They provide vital reassurance to passengers and with on-going security issues it seems utter madness to want to take these staff off trains.

There are also accessibility issues to consider - a guard ensures people with disabilities and mobility impairments can access trains.

The company claims that by changing the guard’s safety role they will be more visible to passengers on trains but the reality is that on many trains they will become invisible as they won’t be there at all.

Our message is simple - keep guards on trains to keep trains safe.

Craig Johnston, Relief Regional Organiser (North)