Disabled passengers joined the picket line today, Wednesday, at London’s Victoria station in solidarity with RMT union train guards fighting to retain their role on Southern train services.
“The guards are essential,” Roger from Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac) told Socialist Worker.
He said, “Where guards don’t exist wheelchairs users are left to be helped by other passengers who manually lift them on and off trains.
“Although they are well-meaning, this is dangerous and could easily result in accidents or worse.”
Roger also raised alarm at plans by Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway to cut staff on stations and close ticket offices.
Dpac and other Southern staff stood with the guards at Victoria today to support their long-running battle to save their safety critical role on trains.
In Brighton train guard Simon said, “We have nothing to lose as Govia are continuing with their plans. I also believe these changes are going to break equality and disability laws.”
The strongly-supported strike has had a big impact and guards are prepared to keep up the fight.
The company claimed ahead of the walkout that it would run 60 percent of its normal timetable—but even on a normal day Southern can’t run that timetable.
Govia wants to extend the use of driver only operated (DOO) trains across its network. This is a key requirement of its special contract with the Department for Transport (DfT).
But workers on trains and station platforms say DOO is not as safe as having a guard on the train.
Aslef union member and Southern driver Joe explained. “We should be concentrating on driving the train. We want a second person—it’s about safety,” he told Socialist Worker.
“There are ten DOO monitors in the cab to watch and track signals too. Once the doors close the cameras go off. If people got caught between the train and the platform we wouldn’t know.
“I’m certain there will be more accidents if they get away with this.”
This is just one reason why having trained guards is safer.
But the Tories and rail executives, whether at the DfT or running the companies, want to ram DOO and the cuts to stations through to boost profits.
Roger argued, “This is a classic example of why the railways should be publicly run—disabled people need extra support but for the companies that’s not profitable.
“We want accessible transport for all and that’s why we back the guards’ fight.”