Union warns Greater Anglia to sit down and negotiate if it wants more drivers to open doors

A current Abellio Greater Anglia train. Picture: James Bass

A current Abellio Greater Anglia train. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

The region's rail operator Abellio Greater Anglia has been warned by a major union it must sit down and negotiate if it plans to bring in driver operated doors on its new trains.

Nigel Gibson, a district organiser for Aslef, issued the warning as the head of his union Mick Whelan said this week that the union was sticking to its position of 'no extension of [driver-only operations] without agreement.

Greater Anglia will introduce new trains on the network between January 2019 and September 2020 under its new franchise agreement with the government.

Commuters in the south-east have endured a series of strikes over recent months amid the long-running dispute between Aslef and Govia Thameslink - Southern Rail's parent company - over handing responsibility for closing some train doors from conductors to drivers.

In an interview with the Financial Times Mr Whelan, the union's general secretary, said: 'No one yet has approached us for an agreement. It's fair to say that, with our current policy, they wouldn't be pushing at an open door.'

Both Aslef and the conductors' union RMT say driver-only operation could put passengers at risk of being trapped in train doors and dragged along by departing trains. But the regulator the Office of Rail and Road say the changes represent a 'safe system of work'.

On the Abellio Greater Anglia network driver only operation is already in place on Stansted Express services, all other West Anglia services and Great Eastern mainline services from Harwich, Colchester, Braintree, Chelmsford and Southend to London. The services do not have conductors.

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There are currently conductors on Greater Anglia's Intercity routes, rural routes and the Colchester to Clacton line.

Greater Anglia said it had no plans to get rid of any conductors when the new trains arrive.

The company said the new trains could operate in full driver only operation method or with conductor operation of the doors, adding: 'We are currently working on the final design of our trains.'

Mr Gibson said: ' 'We expect the company if they have any intention of bringing forward any changes to working practices to sit down and work with us before they make changes.'

He said that had a positive working relationship with Greater Anglia, but they would expect them to sit down and negotiate.

Steve Smart, regional organiser for the RMT union said: 'At the moment we have had no indication of their intention to extend the DOO (driver only operations). If it was their position going forward it would give us concern obviously.'

A Greater Anglia spokesperson said: 'Our trade unions are being fully consulted about our new trains. This includes a visit to the Stadler factory in Switzerland where they are being built.'

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