The Anonymous Widower

Thoughts On The Train Strikes

These strikes have all the qualities of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The latest headline on an article on the BBC is Southern rail strike enters second day as Acas talks start.

I doubt the talks will be very productive.

Here are my thoughts about various issues.

London

I have been running around in driver-only-operated (DOO) trains for quite a few decades now. Especially, as I have always travelled frequently on the London Underground.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive section on One Man Operation in London.

This is said about the Underground.

All trains on the London Underground are single-manned.Conversion to one-man operation began in 1984 and was completed in 2000.

In some ways though the Underground, is not full DOO, in that on nearly all stations, there are staff on the station, who assist the driver to safely dispatch the trains.

Assistance From Staff

The staff on the platform are also there to assist passengers, who need help. This page on the Transport for London web site describes the role of staff.

This is said under Assistance To And From Trains.

On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.

If you would like to use this service, ask a member of staff when you arrive at the station.

That is very much turn-up-and-go for everybody!

So what happens on Southern?

This page on the Southern web site gives full details of what they offer.

This is said.

When should I ask for help?

If you want to book ‘help’ try to call us at least one day before you travel.

That is not acceptable.

So there’s one job for the redundant guards on Southern – They could help on the platform, as they do on the London Underground and Overground.

The Gospel Oak To Barking Line

London hasn’t been without trouble though, as this from Wikipedia shows.

TFL now operates 100% of its overground network as driver-only trains. The latest conversion was announced in July 2013 on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) challenged the move, claiming passenger safety would be compromised. Transport for London replied that at the time the East London Line, already one-man operated, has one door-related incident for every 7 million passengers, while the section of the network which currently uses conductors has one door-related incident for every 4 million passengers.[10] On 16 August 2013, the RMT called a 48-hour strike over the August Bank holiday weekend. According to the RMT, the proposal set forth by Transport for London would imply Driver Only Operations on the whole of the London Overground network and make 130 guards redundant London Overground Rail Operations stated in response that they had given “the RMT assurances on employing conductors in alternative customer service roles and offering a generous voluntary redundancy package to those who want it.” According to RMT, the proposals to implement driver only operations are in response to the 12.5% reduction in Transport for London’s funding announced in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review

I certainly don’t remember that strike. So it must have been really significant!

Overground And Underground

You should always remember that when the Overground started, every train had a second man, but gradually they have been moved to the platforms.

The Overground works a different system to the Underground on doors in that the driver enables the doors for opening and they are actually opened by the passengers individually. On the Underground, the driver just opens and closes all doors.

Crossrail

It will be interesting to see, what system the new Class 345 trains for Crossrail use.

It’s an Overground train in the outer reaches and an Underground train in the centre.

The Class 345 trains also appear to be very hi-tech with various innovative features.

Automatic Train Operation

The Victoria Line in London has always run with automatic train operation (ATO). The Wikipedia entry has two entries about London.

On the London Underground, the Central, Northern, Jubilee, and Victoria lines run with ATO.

ATO was introduced on the London Underground’s Northern line in 2013 and will be introduced on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines by 2022. Although ATO will be used on Crossrail and Thameslink, it has not yet been implemented on UK mainline railways

Lines like the Victoria Line, Crossrail and Thameslink, will not be completely automatic, but the driver will be an intelligent monitor to what the train is doing. It could be compared to auto-land on an aircraft, where the plane is actually controlled, by the autopilot and the pilots monitor.

As a Control Engineer, I believe we’ll be seeing large increases in the use of ATO in the UK in the next few years. Many intensively used lines could probably handle more trains, with a controlling ATO system.

Will the Unions object to ATO?

They haven’t seemed to yet, as ATO generally seems to see an increase in the number of trains, which means more staff.

More Automation On Trains

This is happening, but then this is only following the lead of more automation in planes and road vehicles.

Crossrail trains will set a new standard in automation.

This is a snippet from the an article in the Derby Telegraph

Unlike today’s commuter trains, Aventra can shut down fully at night and can be “woken up” by remote control before the driver arrives for the first shift.

I described this to a driver for Northern and a big smile came over his face.

Perhaps more contentious is the autoreverse system fitted to Crossrail trains, that I wrote about and explained fully in Crossrail Trains Will Have Auto-Reverse.

The system will work at a Crossrail terminal like Paddington or Abbey Wood.

  • The driver selects auto-reverse in the terminal platform.
  • The train then drives itself into the reversing siding.
  • The driver starts to walk back through the train towards the other cab.
  • When the train reaches the end of the reversing siding, it reverses back into the return platform.
  • By the time the driver has walked the length of the train and  installed himself in the cab, the train will have arrived in the platform and will be ready to depart.

I suspect that there will be a high-level of safety systems, with the driver probably carrying a dead man’s handle, that connects to the train by radio.

It will be interesting to see how the Unions react to such a system.

  • One of the reasons for the auto-reverse is that it is needed to get 30 trains per hour, through the tunnel.
  • Drivers will avoid a 200 metre walk.
  • No passengers will be on the train, when the driver is out of the cab.

But it will mean more staff being employed, to drive and service the extra trains and handle the extra passengers.

Conclusion

I am drawn to the conclusion, that lots of automation and driver aids are coming to the railways.

DOO is the first of many issues, where there will be a fight.

If the Unions don’t like it, they will reap the wrath of the passengers, train companies and most politicians.

 

December 15, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The Victoria Line was always one man operation from its opening in the 1960’s – indeed it does not actually even need a driver.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | December 15, 2016 | Reply


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