After 6 months of disruption to our rail services most customers are still confused by the difference between Conductors and On Board Supervisors. I hope this comparison of their duties will help.


Safety Critical Trained – This means that they have a legal responsibility when carrying out certain duties. These duties are: Train Dispatch, Emergency Train Evacuation, Protecting the line if the train is involved in an incident (derailment, collision with road vehicle, collision with objects on the track, fire, security alert etc.).

Ensures disabled access to train service – at present no service can operate over the disputed routes without a Safety Critical trained Conductor on board therefore disabled passengers are certain of a staff member being there to ensure they can gain access to ALL services.

Customer Service – This involves giving travel advice, selling tickets, giving reassurance by being highly visible, helping the elderly with luggage, making interchange announcements etc.

On Board Supervisor

Not Safety Critical Trained – Can’t carry out train dispatch, Can’t control emergency evacuation (may assist only), Can’t carry out protection of the line in event of incident.

Does not ensure disabled access to train services – there is no certainty that an On Board Supervisor will be on every service. Will be able to assist on services they operate, providing they are aware that assistance is required (unlike Conductors their role does not require them to step on to the platform to check. They have to wait for driver notification. This is to allow them to spend more time on board the train carrying out Customer Service).

Customer Service – this involves giving travel advice, selling tickets, giving reassurance by being highly visible, helping the elderly with luggage, making interchange announcements etc.

So there are the two job roles.

The union claim that the Safety Critical role is vital for running a safe railway. They argue that in the event of a serious incident it is essential that there is a 2nd Safety Critical trained member of staff on board to ensure customer safety.

The Union also argues that to remove the certainty from disabled customers that they will be able to board every service breaches the 2010 Equality Act.

The Company claims that modern trains no longer require a second Safety Critical member of staff and this releases staff to carry out more customer service.

The Company state that it is their intention to try and have an On Board Supervisor on every service but when this is not possible they will operate the service with only the Driver.

The company state they are not disadvantaging their disabled customers but have yet to explain how they will ensure that someone who requires assistance will be able to turn up and travel without pre booking assistance.

Hope this helps clarify the reasons for this dispute.

Our opinion is that we want as highly skilled personnel as possible working any service we’re on and that it is quite disgraceful that GTR/Southern would implement any plan to improve customer service that discriminates against the disabled.