Further strike action on Southern Rail takes place this week, and the disruption this will cause for passengers is regrettable. But we won’t be misled by the industry on why the strikes are taking place.
The extension of driver only operations by Southern Rail is at the heart of the dispute between Aslef, the RMT and Govia Thameslink Railway which runs Southern. Last week (5 January) the Office for Rail and Road Regulation published a review of Driver Only Operations (DOO) on Southern Rail, concluding that:
“ORR is satisfied that with suitable equipment, procedures and competent staff in place the proposed form of train dispatch intended by GTR-Southern, meets legal requirements and can be operated safely.”
The conclusion by the ORR as safety regulator doesn’t give driver only operations a clean bill of health. It suggests that it can be safe if certain criteria are met. Even though the ORR describes its review as “thorough”, for some strange reason it only focuses on train dispatch and completely ignores the implications of DOO for passenger safety on the whole train journey. Not what you’d expect from an ‘independent’ safety regulator.