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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-02-09

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

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Strike action might breach existing legal commitments to protect older and disabled passengers

THE Rail Union RMT claims that a Northern Rail bulletin issued to staff ahead of tomorrow's strike action breaches existing legal commitments to protect older and disabled passengers.  The Union has told the media that Northern Rail has said that in future they only want:- "a 2nd person on many trains, just not all, we want to explore staffing options with the RMT where there may not need to be a 2nd person on board." Yet Northern Rail, according to the RMT, is required by their operating license to establish and comply with a "disabled people's protection policy" which must be approved by the Rail Regulator, the Office of Road and Rail. Northern's existing disabled people's protection policy called Making Rail Accessible, via helping older and disabled passengers was reissued as recently as June 2017 and detail a number of areas where having a Conductor (Guard) on all trains currently protects older and disabled passengers.  The policy rightly boasts that:- "all our trains have conductors they are there to help so please don't hesitate to ask and that passengers who require assistance getting on and off the trains will benefit from the fact that Conductors will fit the on train ramps at unstaffed stations. The policy also sets out how a Conductor on every trains assists and protects older and disabled passengers after they have boarded the train. Our conductors, who are on every train, will make every effort to help older and disabled passengers to find a seat. They will also take reasonable steps to ensure that the wheelchair space is available for wheelchair users when required…… Aural and visual information; Conductors are trained to make announcements giving details of the next station in good time to allow disabled passengers to prepare to alight. They will also provide information on any service disruption. Conductors are trained to take into account the needs of visually impaired, deaf or hearing impaired people, as well as those with reduced mobility. On board the train, our conductors will keep you informed and explain where all the emergency information is located. They're also fully trained to assist all passengers should evacuation of the train be necessary."

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:- "Currently, under the terms of their own operating licence; agreed with the rail regulator; Northern Rail have to comply with their commitment to older and disabled passengers that there will be a Conductor on every train. This means there will always be assistance available to get on and off the train and there will also always be assistance available when on board the train. It also guarantees there will always be a Conductor to inform and protect older and disabled passengers in emergencies and carry out evacuations. Northern's latest message to their own staff that the company no longer wish to provide this protection and assistance for older and disabled passengers is an absolute scandal and rolls the clock back on the rights of older and disabled people. The only way Northern Rail can get away with their cuts is if the rail regulator agrees to the changes. We are calling on the regulator's Chief Executive, Joanna Whittington, to make it crystal clear she has no intention of agreeing Northern Rail's plans to weaken protection and assistance for older and disabled people."


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