GraveTalk 1: Merseyrail New Trains – Yea or Nay on Guards?

Guess it’s time for a Gravetalk!

Time to have MY say on all the train strikes about Driver Only Trains (DOT).

Don’t worry because I am going to (well at least try) cover both for and against DOT.

PRO-NEW TRAINS ARGUEMENT

Let’s be honest do we really need extra on-board train personnel? Probably yes – but at certain times and certain routes. However, the extra staff shouldn’t be guards.

What is a guards roll? To open and close doors and making sure passengers get on and off safely? Well, one out two isn’t bad. In 2011 a guard was the cause of a teenager being killed at James Street (Okay as she was 16, so she was underage drinking, but that’s another issue).

However, three times I’ve been on the train where the guard has not shown any interest in helping passengers nor their safety. The first was on a train coming into the Liverpool Underground. The guard told the passenger he couldn’t talk as he needed to stay in his compartment while the train was in the underground and had to wait until he got off to talk to him. When the passenger got off, the guard showed disinterest and signalled the train to depart the station.

The second, was when I was get the Liverpool train from West Kirby, after finishing work on a hot July Saturday. West Kirby – a seaside town – and on hot days you get idiots drinking too much from Birkenhead and Liverpool. On this train (In front of the guard) two drunken men started harassing a group of Spanish student girls. The guard did nothing, so I had to intervene (Okay, any decent person would do the same).

The third was a similar situation to the first. A passenger knocked on the guards door (Just after leaving Moorfields, in 2017). The passenger was just completely ignored by the guard, even after the second knock. Now the guard even announces that if a passenger (Not customer – Mersey Travel) has any issues, they can contact the guard at the back. Yet in practice, this is not the case. I travel on Merseyrail pretty much everyday for the past 8 years and although their service is to a high standard and very rare delays/cancellations (Throughout a calendar year) I have to say the trains are now approaching 40 years old and need replacing. If this means no more guards, so be it – it’s time Liverpool moved with the times rather than stay in the past!

Look at London and many other major cities that use DOT. I have used the London Underground (And Oyster Cards are much better than **sigh** Walrus cards [Memo, shoot the one who came up with that name]) and I have not had any problems getting around. There are staff situated on the platform and cameras. The London train system is larger and busier than Liverpool’s and DOT work just fine.

Another point is that the guards are arguing over jobs. Merseyrail have said there will be no short-term compulsory redundancies and guards will be moved to other roles (on the same pay). They have also said there will be some extra on-board customer advisory roles (Which sound like guards – just not opening and closing the doors). Are the guards striking because these new on-board roles mean they will be more in the passengers’ eyes and not locked away their own space? They talk about job losses. Well, I’m sorry but in 2018 there is now no such thing as a long-term job. Business’ are always looking to cut costs and that affects everyone.

Putting guards on trains after 8pm? I don’t feel particularly safer with the guards on-board the current trains, I doubt that would change with the new trains especially with the open carriage system (Open walkway between carriages). I would be more in favour of putting extra British Transport Police Officers on board between 8pm-11pm. The BTP officers do make a difference, but guards no.

Liverpool needs to move forward and these new trains will allow the city and Merseyside expand and compete with the rest of the UK, EU and worldwide! The guards talking about Merseyrail keeping the profits, these “profits” can be used to expand the network, buy more trains, employ more staff (Longer-term) and create a new travel-card system (With a much better name! Bloody Walrus – why Walrus??? Oh, because of the Beatles [There’s more to Liverpool than the bloody Beatles!).

PRO-GUARDS ARGUEMENT

Now this may be difficult, but as my history teacher once said “If you are going to argue, you have to look at both sides” – that includes debates on people like Jimmy Saville and Hitler (Okay maybe not Saville :)).

At the moment the guards are there to make sure passengers alight the trains safely – and it is very rare when a serious/fatal incident occurs because of the guards. Most of the guards are friendly and help out passengers. Also, some guards will hold off departing if a passenger is only slightly late (Or even lets the passenger on the train through their cab – this is something that won’t happen with the new trains without guards).

Do guards assist with passengers requiring ramp access? No. It is the station staff who radio through to the destination stop. But guards do allow as many passengers on the trains, as possible at peak times – even if everyone onboard are squashed!

SUMMARY

I am struggling with the ‘For Guards’ argument. But I am all for the new trains rather without guards – having travelled in London I have seen no problems with DOT and I have not felt unsafe on the tube at night (Or in London in general). If Merseyrail get rid of guards I will not be too concerned, but if they decide to bow down to peer pressure and keep the guards, well… I won’t be too concerned either – they’ll be shrinking instead of growing, but so does every man!

To close this, I will say that if Liverpool (and Merseyside) really want to become a true global city and region, then I truly think removing the guards is the way forward and invest the savings into developing a world-class public transport system!

My verdict: Nay on Guards (Real shocker…wasn’t it!)

 

Well that’s it for this GraveTalk! Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with my views! I want to know what you think too! Also, let me know what you want me to talk about next time! I’m thinking Brexit? Hope you’ve enjoyed my rant and GraveTalk No.2 will be coming soon!!

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