February 2012 in Train Operations
Two reporters have expressed concern about the safe dispatch of trains at East Croydon station. This problem has gotten worse in the last six months.
There have been many occasions where only one or two members of staff have been left to dispatch 8, 10 and 12-car trains. Due to the lack of staff on platforms, large parts of trains remain unsupervised, which the reporters believe could lead to potential problems going unnoticed. In addition, it is difficult to dispatch trains on time with the current shortage of staff.
The reporters feel there is also a risk to the personal safety of staff, especially when they are left to work alone on platforms during night shifts.
This concern is further exacerbated by the fact that there are no Customer Experience Managers (CEMs) covering night shifts due to only two out of five positions having been filled. This is causing an increased workload among staff, leading to high stress levels and low morale.
The reporters are aware that there are plans to employ more staff but they do not feel this is being done quickly enough.
Response from Southern Railway
Firstly, we would like to thank the reporters for their comments.
As a company, we would never expect any member of staff to undertake work that is unsafe; this is supported by ourSafety Policy StatementandRefusal to Work Policywhich are available on all safety notice boards. Additionally, while achieving a Right Time Railway is a key aim for Southern, this should never be at the expense of safety.
The dispatch plan for the station clearly states that each door on the train must be visible to at least one member of the dispatch team. It is part of the role of the Team Leaders to look for cover for short notice alterations, for example staff absence or sickness, and also to manage the staff on their shift by moving them between platforms as necessary to maintain sufficient coverage for the dispatch plan.
At no point are staff rostered to work on their own on night shifts as there are four staff and a team leader rostered to work on the platforms, along with a member of staff in the ticket office and one on the gateline. We have been encouraging all members of staff to use the 'eyewitness' reporting tool to report anti-social behaviour and security issues, however there have been no reports from any staff working nights at East Croydon.
Over the last six months, there have been a higher number of vacancies than would be normal at East Croydon, as well as a small number of staff temporarily restricted from safety critical duties due to medical reasons. The vacancies were kept open to be available for any staff that may have been displaced as part of the changes to the station supervisory structure, not just at East Croydon. As soon as this process was completed, the vacancies were advertised and the recruitment process began. Unfortunately, it can take a number of weeks for a new member of staff to join following the assessment and interview process as often they may need to give a number of weeks notice at their current job and this may not always align exactly with the date of the next training course.
The Customer Experience Manager position on nights is an addition to the current establishment as this has not been part of the management structure at East Croydon in the past. With the recent station staffing reorganisation and the removal of the Station Supervisor position, the Team Leaders are now rostered to cover night shifts having previously only worked earlies and lates. This means the number of staff on nights remains the same as it has been since it was increased in April 2010. Therefore, the lack of a Customer Experience Manager on nights will not lead to an additional workload on staff.
In response to the three questions raised:
With only two Customer Experience Managers in position, it would not be practicable for them to cover night shifts as it would leave the day shifts, including the morning and evening peaks, uncovered.