A document found on a train:

ORR Report on DOO

No one should be surprised by what is contained in the ORR report. This report was produced by a supposedly independent Rail Regulator who had previously advised the Rail TOCs on the most cost effective method of introducing DOO.

DOO has always been viewed as a means of cutting costs for the industry. The ORR working on behalf of the TOCs and the DFT has, since before the infamous McNulty report, been laying the ground work for cutting costs with the introduction of driver only operation.

The main  point in the report which  must be challenged is the statement that DOO could be viewed as a safer means of operation than dispatch with a Conductor.

The argument that the ORR put forward to justify this position is that the Driver will be able to observe the platform train interface for “a short period of time” as the train departs the station something that a Conductor carrying out Vestibule dispatch would be unable to do. It is certainly a new approach to safety to suggest that a Driver of a vehicle moving forward should be concentrating on screens showing him what is happening behind him. It would still seem desirable to have Vestibule dispatch over DOO as this method at least allows the driver to concentrate on what is occurring in front of him with the conductor viewing the platform from the door panel until the train has cleared the station.

There is of course a third method which provides a safer means of dispatch than DOO or Vestibule.

Vestibule dispatch is Southern’s preferred method of dispatch and was enforced on Conductors by the Company.

The ORR are stating that DOO is a safer means of dispatch because Vestibule dispatch does not allow the Conductor sufficient visibility of the platform train interface as the train leaves the station. If this is correct then the question needs to be asked of the ORR why they allowed Southern to bring in Vestibule dispatch as their preferred method of operation  when there was a safer method available.

When the slam door stock were phased out and replaced with power door stock, the method of operation for train dispatch was a Conductor closing the doors from an intermediate or rear Cab and viewing the platform train interface until the carriages were clear of the station.

This was/is the safest method of train dispatch available, as it allows for the platform train interface to be observed for the longest period of time by a Safety Critical trained member of staff who is in a Cab and therefore free from distractions. There is also an Emergency Stop button located at the dispatch point in case the conductor requires to stop the train due to an incident at the platform/train interface.

The comparison that the ORR needed to do was between DOO and the safest alternative method. It is clear that if such a comparison was done then Cab dispatch by a Conductor would be the safest method of dispatch by some margin.

The ORR have facilitated Southern over the years in moving from Cab dispatch to Vestibule dispatch not just to help increase ticket sales/revenue flow but because it was also seen as a vital step to introducing DOO by downgrading the Conductor role in safe train dispatch.

If the ORR  had not facilitated Southern in their move to Vestibule dispatch they could not now be claiming DOO as the safer method.

The increase in passenger numbers over the past years and the predicted increases to come in the future, have all led to both platforms and trains becoming more crowded.  The need to prioritise safe train dispatch has become of critical importance as the dangers associated with the platform train interface are exasperated by the further  increase in passenger numbers. To deal effectively with this increased risk it should be seen as essential to introduce the safest method of train dispatch and not the cheapest method as part of a cost cutting plan.

Cab dispatch by a Safety Critical trained Conductor provides the safest method of working by protecting the interests of both customers and traincrew and the RMT and ASLEF  should start demanding  its re-introduction without delay.