Great Western Railway: Door Operation Changes
A recent story to hit the headlines came from Swindon, and Great Western Railway. There has been some controversy over new plans from Great Western to put drivers in charge of operating train doors. Largely opposed by Unions, the debate over the plans rolls on. We decided to investigate and explore the ramifications of such a move.
What are the Great Western Railway proposals?
The proposals laid out by Great Western are to remove the safety trained guard on board high speed trains from Swindon, giving the train driver control of opening and closing the doors. This has been enforced not only to save money in the long term, as it is felt that train guards are an unnecessary expenditure, but also to give the driver more control of what is going on his/her vehicle.
So, what are the positives of this move? Contrary to Union belief, there are large numbers of people in favour of the move. Firstly, it is a great cost-cutting tool. While the opening and closing of doors is extremely important for the efficient running of trains, it is not that difficult a job. It is just as simple for a driver, who has already stopped the train by this point, to stick his head out of the window and look down the row of carriages; to see when it’s appropriate to open or close the doors. With a rise in fare dodgers, train companies need to make smart business decisions in order to stay afloat. Cutting unnecessary costs will go a long way to doing this.
Secondly, it is argued that these proposals give the driver more control of his/her vehicle. While many Unions have argued against this, there are a good number of drivers who are happy with these changes. Drivers welcome the chance to take on new challenges and responsibilities, and many seem very pleased to have the extra task of looking after their customers. Customer service is integral to train drivers, and this is one task that will allow drivers to get more involved in this.
As mentioned, there has been staunch opposition to the plans, in particular from Unions. The first argument that Union leaders have made is that the proposed changes could lead to serious safety issues. Their argument is that Train Drivers need to pay 100% of their attention on driving the train. By giving them the added responsibility of monitoring the doors, you are risking the safety of passengers. The reason the guards are so effective is because they are specifically trained in this area, and the costs that will be offset by cutting their responsibilities, will only be added again by training drivers.
The second argument against the proposals is again to do with safety. On top of the extra responsibilities, unions have warned that it is fundamental for both the drivers and passengers that there is a guard or conductor on board trains, to assist in the event of emergency. This is particularly important in the event that a driver is rendered incapable or incapacitated. With more and more passengers using the railway system, the need for staff is more important than ever. Instead, Great Western are cutting them. This will ultimately damage customer service, lead to a loss in profits and damage the reputation of Great Western.