Every couple of months in the news there is a mention of a train company striking. Today it is Southern Railway. If you didn’t know already about the upcoming inconvenience, here are the upcoming strike dates:

strike-dates

The Standard writes;

The on-going dispute between Southern and the RMT union is over the role of train conductors. Southern plans to change the role of its 400 plus conductors from August with the introduction of driver only operated trains.

So Southern Railway want to modernize their network by making the train driver more responsible for the train and not the conductor.  What is wrong with that?  Do commuter trains really need a conductor?

Chaps, we are in the 21st century! London has proved through the DLR that trains don’t need conductors checking tickets, ensuring doors are opened and closed, making announcements, because the entire system is computerized from buying the ticket, to checking in and out to actually driving the train.  Driver-less trains, what an invention?

What does a train conductor do? 

train-conductors-what-they-do

My oh my so that is what a train conductor does and what a load of nonsense it all is:

  • Most if not all train companies have cleaners. They hop on and off when a train enters their final destination. Those cleaners will have someone in charge of them surely ensuring the train is clean.
  • Trains should have cameras, most do. A conductor would be useless if they were at one end of the train when a crime was being committed in another carriage.
  • If all the doors are computerized and have sensors the train driver can see on his panel if a door is jammed or not working and alert the right people to fix the problem. Unless the conductor is able to fix the problem themselves what is the point?
  • Conductors walking through busy, crowded trains to check tickets is a waste of time. They can never check all the tickets or even properly fine the people who don’t have valid tickets. It is normally a length process. It is the responsibility of the train station to ensure customers have valid tickets. Deal with the problem at the source, not on the train. Train conductors rarely know all the languages to be able to effectively communicate to the passengers if they have no paid their ticket.
  • Most customers these days are savvy enough to know what train they are on, where they are going, or have access to the internet to see routes and time tables or they get this information from the station before boarding.  If the conductor was on the platform that would be useful.
  • The train driver I am sure can multi-task and make the announcements over the loud speaker.
  • It should be the responsibility of the station to ensure passengers can get on and off the train. By that I mean, if someone is disabled or wheelchair bound, there should be ramps or platforms that are level with the train. A train conductor stuck in coach 8 is not going to help an old lady in a wheelchair in coach 1 if the train is packed, like most are these days, unless there are more than one conductor on a train. The station should be the responsible party.
  • Dealing with passengers getting ill. All trains should have some form of communication to the driver to alert him of the problem.
  • Write reports on delays. Gosh! conductors would be flat out busy writing all day and every day given how often trains are delayed on the British railway networks. No conductor needs to write reports on anything as delays, emergencies etc. would be computerized and recorded in a database.

southern-railway-striking

Conductors need to get with the program. This role is redundant in the UK on most commuter journeys. Some train services such as Eurostar I can see the need for train conductors, not just one, but a few. This is a different type of journey where its all about customer service.

Commuter trains such as Southern Railway, South Eastern railways etc. should concentrate on getting passengers from A to B on time every time. They should provide more carriages so that there are enough seats for all and they should lower their prices because they have been ripping us off for far to long. They should also be fined heavily if they run late trains and have their contracts cancelled if there are no improvements. They are right to get rid of conductors on the trains. They would be better served working on the platforms, ensuring folk pay for their tickets, supporting commuters in wheel chairs and offering guidance about routes and time tables.