Wear a face covering sign

UK: The RMT trade union has written to the government calling for a suspension of on-train revenue protection and ticket inspection duties at all Train Operating Companies for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.

Current guidance from the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail & Road is that onboard revenue protection activities may take place where social distancing can be achieved. However, RMT believes that social distancing is not possible, and the non-essential duties increase the risk of staff coming into contact with the coronavirus.

RMT said a survey of onboard staff found that 10 TOCs had suspended on-train revenue protection, while seven had not.

This is in contrast to the first lockdown from March 2020, when all onboard revenue protection activities were suspended.

RMT said fewer than one in five of the staff who are required to undertake on-train revenue protection were satisfied with arrangements to protect them, nearly 70% believe the duties should be suspended, and almost 80% would be prepared to invoke their employer’s worksafe procedure if they had Covid-19 concerns.

Operators requiring staff to undertake on-train revenue protection or ticket inspection duties (Source: RMT)
Yes Avanti West Coast, c2c, CrossCountry, GWR, LNER, Northern and SWR
No Caledonian Sleeper, Chiltern, East Midlands Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway, Greater Anglia, ScotRail, Southeastern, TransPennine Express, Transport for Wales, West Midlands Railway, also local concessionaires Merseyrail and London Overground, currently suspended open access operators Grand Central and Hull Trains, and Eurostar

‘I am seeking confirmation from DfT by no later than February 22 that it will immediately ensure that these duties are suspended for the duration of the current lockdown across all Train Operating Companies’, said RMT General Secretary Mick Cash on February 18. ‘If DfT fails to do this, RMT will have no option but to consider what further action it can take to ensure its members’ safety.’

Cash said ‘staff play a central role in helping passengers feel safe’ and should be focusing ‘on the core functions of assurance, accessibility and safety, rather than undertaking non-essential tasks that make it virtually impossible to social distance’.

GTR Southern coronavirus smart card poster

A DfT spokesperson told Rail Business UK that ‘train operators have been issued comprehensive guidance on the steps they need to take to protect staff, in line with Public Health England advice’.

The Rail Delivery Group said operators had worked closely with regulators and unions to ensure that the risk assessments were suitable. Ticket checks were being carried out in different ways depending on the type of service, with the use of contactless scanners and a greater focus on checks at stations where there is more space.

‘Operators are doing everything possible to help their employees work safely by providing PPE, boosting cleaning, and enabling zero contact inspections, while customers are encouraged to go contactless and choose digital tickets where possible’, said Susie Homan, Director of People, Operations & Railway Strategy at RDG. ‘Decisions about onboard ticket inspections are based on rigorous risk assessments and supported by guidance from the rail regulator and Public Health England to enable staff and passengers to work and travel safely.’