April 2011 in Train Operations
Concerns have been raised about changes to the dispatch process as a result of the possible reduction in Platform Staff at stations in the Sussex area.
At some locations more than two Train Dispatchers are required because of the nature of the platform curvature. The reporter understands that one Train Dispatcher role will, in future, be carried out by the Conductor. The new procedure would require the Conductor to alight from the middle of the train, carry out the dispatch procedure with up to two Train Dispatchers and then board the train before closing the doors. After this occurs, the other two Train Dispatchers would be unable to see each other because of the curve.
Once the Conductor has boarded the train, the concern is that if an incident occurred on the platform, Train Dispatchers would not be able to signal to one another that there was a problem. It could potentially make it more difficult to ensure trains are dispatched from the platform safely. Some stations have large numbers of children using the train services and passengers often try to board trains at the last minute. The concern is that a reduction in staff could potentially compromise the safety of passengers.
Risk assessments have been carried out assessing all associated risks with the dispatch changes. The situation described by the reporter would be unlikely to occur when following the SS1 module of the Rule Book and Southern's SC4 manual which states the following relating to trains with power operated doors:-
"The process is that Dispatchers give the signal that all station work has been completed to the Conductor who then either initiates the door close sequence or signals to the Driver to close the doors. Once the doors have closed a second station work completed signal is given by the Dispatch Staff to the Conductor, who then closes the local doors or cab door, thus completing the process with full visibility of the Dispatchers required until the train doors are secure. At this point the doors and traction interlock have been proven and the train is able to move."
Consultation has occurred both at company and local level where issues have been raised and answered, and a robust process of risk assessments have been carried out including involvement from Health and Safety Representatives. The revised method of working is compliant with the Rule Book, and Southern's Safety Certification process and therefore the staffing level process has been exhausted.