March 2010 in Train Operations
A reporter is very concerned about understaffing of multi-functional personnel at York, Darlington and Edinburgh stations, especially with the approach of Christmas. According to the reporter, vacancies are not being filled at these stations and the existing staff have to work extra shifts to cover, even on rest days. This has been a problem for at least six months.
It has now been announced that National Express does not intend to bring in agency staff over Christmas to assist with luggage. Instead, staff will be brought in from headquarters to help out, but the reporter is concerned that this will not be sufficient. The reporter and many other members of staff on these stations are very concerned that the lack of extra staff over Christmas will lead to an intolerable workload. The reporter fears that the pressure on staff could lead to mistakes being made in dispatch, through tiredness or being distracted by other duties. Also, the high workload is likely to lead to more staff having to take time off sick, exacerbating the problem.
In the short term, the reporter would like to see agency staff brought in to assist over Christmas. In the longer term, the reporter would like to see the existing vacancies filled to relieve the pressure on existing staff. Also, the reporter feels that National Express could be better at communicating to the staff on the ground how they intend to relieve the work load caused by understaffing. Will National Express consider bringing in agency staff for Christmas at these stations? Will the vacancies at these stations be filled in the foreseeable future?
At the time that the report was submitted some station teams were running slightly short of their full compliment but these were covered by staff working overtime on a voluntary basis. Staff performing safety critical duties work in dedicated dispatch teams and their working hours are strictly rostered and monitored. These roles are always covered as a priority. Station managers were able to utilise a mixture of agency staff and volunteers to help with customer assistance roles on the busy periods leading up to Christmas. The use of volunteers is regarded as particularly useful as customer assistance functions can vary from hour to hour. By looking at the requests for assistance and planning in advance we can make sure key times and days are covered by staff who have valuable working knowledge of the railway.
Since the report was made a full station reorganisation has been completed which was fully consulted with relevant trade unions and all the stations are currently working to their full compliment of staff.