The Anonymous Widower

Would It Be Better To Run Some Suburban Trains With Two Drivers?

Reading an article about South Western Railway in the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, I read this statement from Andy Mellors of the company.

SWR does not have any intend to reduce staff numbers and sees a strong bernefit in having more than one person on a train, even if some specific duties change.

The plan is to have a second person onboard every train. We know that our customers appreciate that and from time to time regular customers as well as infrequent travellers need that reassurance as well. We plan to have a second person on-board our trains, and we are not committed to any particular method of operation through our bid.

Between Waterloo and Chessington South stations, trains currently take the following times using the current Class 455 trains.

  • Waterloo to Chessington South – 36 minutes
  • Turning train at Chessington South – 15 minutes
  • Chessington South to Waterloo  38 minutes

For an efficient train service, it is essential that the trains can execute the route as fast as possible.

A modern train like a Class 720 train, will decrease journey times because of the following.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Fast acceleration and efficient regenerative braking.
  • Efficient loading and unloading of passengers.
  • Level access for wheelchair users, buggy pushers and those dragging large cases.
  • Driver aids, so that time keeping and other measures are improved.

The trains will reduce the journey times, but how do you reduce the fifteen minutes to turn the train at Chessington South?

If the trains working the branch are ten-car units, a lot of the time at Chessington South will be spent walking from one end of the train to  the other.

Supposing both members of the crew were qualified to drive the train and they shared duties as a team.

  • Each crew member would drive one way, whilst the other looked after passengers, doors and safety.
  • As SWR have said all suburban trains will have a toilet, there may be further efficiencies.
  • The turnback time could probably be reduced by several minutes.

I believe that with the  new trains and a well-thought out method of working, a complete return trip could be made within an hour.

With the current method of working, two trains per hour (tph)  is possible and it needs three trains, due to the ninety minute return trip.

But with two crew sharing duties, four tph could be possible and it would need only four trains.

It should be noted that to speed turnround on the Underground, drivers walk back and then step up on the next train.


Obviously, it’s not this easy, but I believe management and unions can work together to find a working method, that is acceptable to all stakeholders.


September 3, 2017 - Posted by | Travel | ,


  1. Aslef members deal with the public?

    A more serious issue is that the driver or ‘guard’ has to check the train during the turn around (sadly these days even bus drivers have to do this), so IME little time saving would be achieve and you would need two drivers on every train, which would cost £££ extra per day.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | September 4, 2017 | Reply

  2. I have had contact about this by e-mail from a driver, who didn’t give his union. His suggestion was that each pair should be chosen for compatibility and perhaps that one could be Aslef and one RMT.

    As to checking the train, a computer and CCTV can probably have a better look these days, checking the train continuously.

    Comment by AnonW | September 4, 2017 | Reply

  3. […] In Would It Be Better To Run Some Suburban Trains With Two Drivers?, I’ll admit I was speculating, but I did have an e-mail from a driver, who said it would certainly increase services on the route they worked, without needing any more trains. […]

    Pingback by A College For Train Drivers « The Anonymous Widower | October 1, 2017 | Reply

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