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What is driver-controlled operation? 

Drivers have been opening and closing doors on trains since 1982 and this way of running services is called ‘Driver-Controlled Operation’. Over half of all passenger journeys in Britain are made on trains where the driver controls the doors (around 53%). 

When the train driver controls the doors:

  • It is safe (and potentially safer) –This is not about safety. Britain has the safest major railway in Europe. The regulator, the ORR, and rail safety body, RSSB, both say that it is just as safe for the driver to control the train doors as it is for a second person on board. RSSB research shows that one person operating the doors would remove any possible miscommunication between those working on the train and potentially deliver safety benefits.
    There is nothing to suggest that trains without a guard pose a safety risk. Between 2013 and the end of 2019, there were over 10 billion passenger journeys made by train and data from industry safety body the RSSB shows that a there have been only eight ‘trap and drag incidents’, of which over half (five) had a second person involved in the dispatch of the train. New trains are also being introduced with doors that are more sensitive to prevent these types of incidents occurring.
  • Journeys take less time which improves punctuality or creates space for additional services – the driver of the train is able to make a decision about when to open and close the doors more quickly than another member of staff. This saves time at every station stop and across an entire journey can save several minutes, helping to reduce delays or shorten journey times. Quicker arrivals and departures mean the train is at the station for less time, allowing more time for other trains to run.
  • Staff on the train can provide better customer service – when the driver controls the doors, the other staff member on board doesn’t have to return to the same place on the train at every stop to operate the doors. This means they’re better able to help passengers on the train, including those with accessibility needs, and together with the British Transport Police help prevent anti-social behaviour.

Allowing the driver to control the doors also means more reliable journeys, as services would not need to be cancelled if on board staff are ill or not available. That means less disruption for customers at stations along the route.

 On routes where it is being proposed that drivers control the doors, the jobs of other on-board staff has been guaranteed. Over 50% more people work for train operators now comparted to 1997/98.

Allowing the driver to control the doors also means more reliable journeys, as services would not need to be cancelled if on board staff are ill or not available. That means less disruption for customers at stations along the route.

 On routes where it is being proposed that drivers control the doors, the jobs of other on-board staff has been guaranteed. Over 50% more people work for train operators now comparted to 1997/98.


Why are there strikes about driver-controlled operation?

Some unions argue that DCO is unsafe, will not help with accessibility or will lead to job losses.

Train companies have guaranteed jobs and are employing over 50% more people now comparted to 1997/98. With driver-controlled operation, on-board staff can spend more time helping with accessibility and trains can run more punctually.

On safety, we are proud to run one of the safest railways in Europe. The rail industry safety body, RSSB, and the rail regulator, the ORR, both say that it is as safe for the driver to control the train doors as it is for a second person on board. Over half of all passenger journeys in Britain are made on trains where the driver controls the doors (around 53%).

There is nothing to suggest that trains without a guard pose a safety risk. Between 2013 and the end of 2019, there were over 10 billion passenger journeys made by train and data from industry safety body the RSSB shows that a there have been only eight ‘trap and drag incidents’, of which over half (five) had a second person involved in the dispatch of the train.

New trains are also being introduced with doors that are more sensitive to prevent these types of incidents occurring.

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