RMT ballot for industrial action
opens as company 'fails to give assurances' on guards on Merseyrail
RAIL Union RMT, on 17 February 2017,
confirmed that a ballot for industrial action is underway after Merseyrail's
continued failure to provide cast iron assurances around the future of the
safety critical role of the Guard. Ballot papers to both Merseyrail Drivers and
Guards has be sent out, with the ballot closing, on 28 February 2017. The union
has launched a strong, high profile campaign across the franchise for a massive
'yes' vote. RMT General secretary Mick Cash said:- "The
union's position on Driver Only Operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree
to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of
the guard and to keep a guard on the train. RMT has asked Merseyrail to give the
union assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew
member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services. We set out
clear deadlines giving the company ample time to give those assurances, but the
company have flatly refused to consider a guarantee of a 2nd safety critical
person on the new trains. This dispute, and the ballot for industrial action,
were entirely preventable if the company had listened and to the unions deep
seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety
before profit. Merseyrail are also completely ignoring the clear wishes of their
own passengers, who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of Driver Only Operated
trains on their trains. That pig headed attitude has left us no choice, but to
kick off the balloting process."
John Tilley, RMT Regional Organiser, added:- "RMT has now been left with
nowhere else to go, but to ballot our members for industrial action in defence
of the future operational safety of Merseyrail, and the retention of the 220
skilled guards' posts. The more details that emerge of how Merseyrail intend to
operate these new trains, the more we are alarmed and determined to retain the
Guard. Merseyrail confirmed to us last week that the plans, to comply with
recommendation No1 of the official accident report into the fatal
accident, at James Street Station, mean that on
the new trains the driver will be required to monitor a set of CCTV screens in
the cab, until the train has left the station. That is completely at odds with
the requirements of basic railway safety, that require the driver to look out of
the front windscreen, watching the signals, and scanning the track for
obstacles, trespassers or workers. As Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel
recently admitted to us, this is all about money, and to that end we are in
discussion with senior politicians, with a view to ending this reckless proposal
to operate Merseyrail with only a driver on board locked up front in his cab. We
expect our members to vote heavily in favour of taking action, as that's what it
may have to take to get people to listen."
What are our readers views on this? Please email us your thoughts on this topic
Merseyrail Track Renewal Phase 2 - Update
Photograph with thanks to Merseyrail.
MERSEYRAIL this week have thanked
Wirral line passengers travelling for their patience during the 1st week of
Phase 2 of the track renewal work, which has seen trains running in and out of
James Street, but with only 1 platform in use. Passengers were advised to leave
longer for their journeys to allow for queues and to travel out of peak times if
possible, and this advice appears to have been heeded. James Street has been
very busy, between 4pm and 6pm, with queuing largely managed inside the Station,
by Merseyrail Staff. Rail journeys should be much smoother, from 20 February
2017, when 2 platforms, James Street will be available. Customers, especially
those with bikes or with travel needs, are still advised to check the
information before they travel
Passengers using the Wirral Line at weekends are reminded that there will be
rail replacement buses running between Birkenhead and Liverpool Station.
Throughout Phase 2, weekends will see Wirral Line trains starting and
terminating at Birkenhead North and Birkenhead Central, and high quality,
express rail replacement buses will be in operation to allow passengers to
complete their journey across the river. Also there will be several options for
people travelling across the river, at weekends; rail replacement buses,
existing cross river bus services, the Mersey Ferries and even the car. The
tunnels are generally proving to be flowing freely at weekends, meaning driving
may be an option on Saturday and Sundays, without causing congestion.
Special arrangements have been made for the weekends over the Grand National
Festival, Easter and the May Bank Holidays, with trains starting and terminating
at James Street.
While trains will be
back running Monday to Friday, people are still being advised to plan their
journeys in advance as services will still be running to the same timetables as
during Phase 1 of the works. There will also be specific advice for cyclists and
other people with travel needs at:-
► Leave more time for your journey. James St will be
the only station in the City Centre where you can catch Wirral line trains so it
will be a lot busier than usual.
► Avoid catching the train to and from James St at
peak times wherever possible. This will help keep queues to a minimum.
► Consider your travel options. There are a number of
ways to cross the Mersey during the week and at weekends. Existing cross river
bus services may be a convenient option or the Mersey Ferries.
► Ensure you've read up on Phase 2,
► There are differences in
travel plans between weekdays and weekends and specific advice for cyclists and
those with disabilities.
Network Rail are replacing the most challenging sections of concrete based track
in the 'loop' originally laid in the 1970's, while making the most
of the opportunity to carry out other work, including replacing conventional
track under the riverbed. Network Rail, Merseyrail and Merseytravel, have been
working over many months, with local authorities, operators and other partners,
to come up with a plan that balances the need to get essential and complex work
done with the need to keep people moving and the City Region and the rest of
Merseyside, 'open for business.' The work, which also
supports a new Merseyrail fleet on the network from the early 2020s, is part of
investment in Merseyside's rail network, over the next 3 years.
Andy Heath, Merseyrail's deputy managing director, said:- "We appreciate
that this week has been difficult for passengers, who have had to get used to
the next stage of the work. Having only 1 platform in use at James Street is not
ideal, but we expect that with 2 available from next week, the situation will be
much more manageable and more pleasant for passengers."
Frank Rogers, Chief Executive of Merseytravel, said:- "The 1st week of
phase 2 was always going to be 1 of the most challenging parts of the track
renewal works, so we would like to thank customers for their continued patience.
Merseyrail staff have worked hard to keep the disruption to passengers, at James
Street, to a minimum. As both platforms will now be open during the week we will
see an improved service for passengers travelling on the Wirral line."
It's worth noting that if all goes to plan, Phase 3 of the program will start on
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 and run until 18 June 2017. Over those 20 days all Wirral
Line Trains will be starting and terminating at Birkenhead North and Birkenhead
Central. Rail replacement busses will be used to run between the Wirral and
signs contract to build and maintain 52 metro trains for Liverpool City Region
STADLER has signed a transformative
deal with Merseytravel worth up to £700 million to build and maintain 52 metro
trains on the Merseyrail network for the Liverpool City Region from 2020.
Replacing one of the oldest fleets in the UK, the new trains will provide fully
step free access for all passengers, making Merseyrail the most accessible
traditional network in the UK. A new Kirkdale maintenance depot will be entirely
designed, built and operated by Stadler.
The current Merseytravel fleet is one of the oldest in the UK, with an average
age of almost 40 years. This contract will entirely replace the existing fleet,
making it one of the most modern in the country and transforming the passenger
experience. The trains will be able to carry 60% more passengers, while
retaining the same number of seats, and will cut journey times by up to 10%.
The new 4 car trains will all be in service by 2021, with the first unit
arriving for testing by the middle of 2019. The value of the manufacture and
maintenance contracts for the 52 trains is up to £700m and Merseytravel also has
the option to trigger the manufacture of a further 60 vehicles.
The trains will have lower floors, only 960 mm above rail level, and will be
entirely walk through, increasing their capacity to 486 people (182 seated, 302
standing, and 2 wheelchair users). Strong but lightweight carriages, built
from aluminium extrusions, mean they will be safer and more energy efficient.
The 64.98 metres long and 2.82 metres wide trains will operate on a 750V DC
third rail network with a maximum speed of 75 mph (120 km/h). The units will
also be equipped with batteries that allow independent movement of the units in
the workshop and depot areas. The trains will be able to be retrofitted for 25
kV AC operation and ETCS Level II.
The new vehicles have been designed for the specific needs of customers
travelling on the Merseyrail network, with many features reflecting what people
said they wanted in research done by passenger watchdog Transport Focus in 2013.
Providing a new level of safety, intelligent sliding steps, combined with
infrastructure improvements, will virtually eliminate the gap between the
platform and the train, providing step free access at all entrances. With no
'gap to mind', the new fleet will be highly accessible for all, from wheelchair
users and the elderly, to cyclists and passengers with luggage. Sensitive door
sensors will detect obstructions, while door illuminations will inform
passengers when it is safe to embark and alight.
On board safety will be enhanced by open and airy compartments with no dividing
doors, as well as CCTV and a transparent cabin for the driver. The trains will
have wider aisles, larger vestibules at the doorways, more grab handles, making
the train safer to use for standing passengers too.
All the interior fittings will be damage resistant and the exterior will be
graffiti and spray paint resistant. The driver's cab offers a comfortable
working environment, with enhanced sight lines, an ergonomic desk arrangement and
all of the functionality required for flexible, modern trains.
Through the maintenance contract, Stadler will undertake light and heavy
maintenance of the units throughout their 35 year life cycle. Ensuring the
highest possible availability of trains and the most efficient maintenance
turnaround, Stadler will design, construct and operate a brand new, state of the
art depot at Kirkdale. Stadler will also oversee the maintenance of the existing
fleet, which will be carried out at the current facility in Birkenhead.
Stadler will transfer 155 maintenance workers from Merseyrail into its own
operations, bringing the total number of Stadler employees in the UK to over 200
people by 2019.
Peter Jenelten, Executive Vice President and Head of Marketing & Sales of
Stadler said:- "This contract with Merseytravel marks a very important
milestone for Stadler in the UK. It will bring safer, more comfortable trains
that can carry more people and will help provide the Liverpool City Region with
the metro service it deserves. The UK is a key part of our global strategy
and this contract represents the latest step in our growth here. We have
recently been successful in several high profile tenders, including the
provision of 58 multiple units for the East Anglia franchise and the delivery of
17 metro trains for the Glasgow Subway, and we now look forward to working with
Merseytravel to deliver its new trains on schedule."
Frank Rogers, Chief Executive of Merseytravel said:- "We are very much
looking forward to working with Stadler. The fleet of new trains will provide
the foundations of our City Region's long term rail strategy and we anticipate
our relationship with Stadler developing into a strong, enduring partnership.
Merseyrail is already high performing network and these trains, designed with
local people in mind, will help support that for decades to come. The new trains
will be safer and able to carry more people, more quickly and, when combined
with infrastructure improvements, the new fleet will make Merseyrail the most
accessible traditional network in the UK"
Fact File.... About the Stadler
Established 75 years ago, headquartered in Bussnang, Switzerland and operating
globally with 7,000 employees in 18 countries, Stadler is a system provider of
train manufacturing and maintenance services. Stadler's range of products is
comprehensive. It includes high speed trains, interCity, regional and commuter
trains, trams, tram trains and underground trains. Stadler manufactures dual
mode locomotives, shunting locomotives and passenger carriages, and offers the
most powerful diesel-electric locomotive in Europe. It remains the world's
leading manufacturer of rack and pinion rail vehicles. Stadler's service
division maintains vehicle fleets in 16 countries.
In the UK, Stadler's Variobahn trams operate on the London Tramlink. Its Class
68 diesel locomotive is the most powerful to run in the UK, and the Class 88
dual mode locomotives are used on freight and passenger services. It has
recently been awarded a contract to build electric and bi mode multiple units
for the new East Anglia franchise, part of the largest ever rolling stock
procurement in the history of the UK, and is providing the vehicles for the
Sheffield tram train, the first of its kind in the UK. It is also part of the
consortium supplying a new fleet of trains for the Glasgow Subway.