Safety is not a ‘make-or-break’ issue when considering whether a train should have a second person on board – according to new research from rail body RSSB.
Its latest analysis aims to wrap up the debate about whether “driver-controlled operation” is safe, and help re-focus the issue in terms of where customers truly benefit from a staff presence – whether that’s on trains or on stations – and ensure the service they offer will best meet passenger needs and expectations.
Train operators need to be able to staff their trains in different ways to suit different scenarios. Long distance, intercity services will typically need more staff on-board to offer appropriate customer service, such as catering, while shorter distance, metro-style services may be able to operate with just the driver.
RSSB’s report reinforces findings from previous work, showing that train travel continues to be fundamentally safe and that the risks are extremely low, regardless of whether the train operates with a guard, other auxiliary on-board staff or with just the driver.
Its analysis looked at the risk that could potentially be moderated by the presence of auxiliary staff, including dispatch, on-board assaults, protecting the line in an emergency, and uncontrolled evacuation. It concluded that the risks involved are tiny, and that they are largely unaffected by the presence or absence of extra staff on-board.
This means that even where a train is booked to have an auxiliary member of staff on board, should they become unavailable at short notice – such as being taken ill – it is still safer to run the train without them than it is to cancel it. This is because of the potential knock-on risk from cancellations such as crowding.
RSSB CEO Mark Phillips said: Safety is not a make-or-break issue, so rail companies are free to consider on-board staffing in terms of where their passengers will benefit - whether that’s on the trains or on stations – and ensure the service they offer will best meet passenger needs and expectations.
Whether a train operates with or without a guard or auxiliary member of staff or not, the risks to passengers and workforce are very low, and there is no significant safety benefit that can be derived by favouring one option over another’.