July 2012 in Train Operations
Dispatch plan:The reporters believe the dispatch plan states that seven members of staff must be on duty to dispatch trains. However, since the removal of the Platform Team Leader position, Dispatch Staff are working in teams of only five or six due to vacancies, sickness or annual leave. This is resulting in only two members of staff being available to dispatch 8, 10 or 12 car trains on curved and often crowded platforms. Staff are concerned that passengers could become trapped in the doors or fall between the train and the platform unnoticed.
Special events:Brighton station often sees a rise in the number of passengers due to special events such as football matches and concerts. The reporters comment that staff numbers are not increased for such events and that both Dispatch and Gateline Staff struggle to control the crowds. It is felt that this is putting passenger safety at risk.
Trains to the depot:Staff have received conflicting information about the process for checking and locking up trains on route to the depot. It is believed that two or three members of staff are required to do this but that often this task is being carried out by one member of staff which has resulted in passengers being sent to the depot.
Lack of support:Although Customer Experience Managers (CEMs) have been recruited to provide support, only two have been trained in dispatch. In addition, when assistance or relief is requested this is not always forthcoming. The reporters comment that cover is often not arranged for annual leave or long-term sickness.
The reporters feel that a combination of these factors is creating a pressurised environment which is leading to high stress levels and low morale amongst staff.
Response from Southern Railway
Southern would like to thank the reporters for bringing their concerns to our attention. In respect of the issues raised we comment as follows.
Dispatch Plan: The dispatch plan states how many Dispatchers are required for each type of stock (including detail of length of service, Driver Only Operations (DOO) platforms etc…). It does not specify how many should be on shift at any one time. All staff have signed and been monitored on the dispatch process at Brighton and have a responsibility to follow the dispatch plan. This has been backed up by briefing sessions with the management team stating that if they are short staffed (for example due to sickness) then they should wait until another member of staff is available before dispatching the train, even if this means delaying a service.
Special Events: Risk assessments and crowd control plans are in place for all special events at Brighton. For major events (eg. Pride, cat C football matches) additional staff are rostered on and an increased management, Rail Neighbourhood Officers and police presence is put in place.
Trains to the depot:There are different processes depending on the type of stock and we are aware that there have been incidents of people being sent to the depot on Class 442 stock. Every member of staff has been briefed by the management team regarding the requirements of the terminating train procedure for this type of stock (basically because you cannot lock each coach out as you go through the train you need someone to stand on the platform and ensure no one boards the coaches that have been checked). Again all staff have been made aware that if they need to wait for another member of staff to assist with the terminating procedure then they should wait, even if this means they delay the train going to depot.
Lack of support:The Customer Experience Manager (CEM) role does not have a specific requirement for safety critical duties and they support all aspects of the station, however able CEMs are being trained in train dispatch.
Clarify the numbers of dispatch staff required for each shift?
The shift runs comfortably with six on duty, however the shift can run with five on duty if staff rotate around the platforms to work on platforms seven and eight as there is a longer gap in the train service.
Review the current roster and ensure sufficient staff are being rostered at all times?
It is acknowledged that there have been some vacancy gaps in the past but these have now been recruited. Other than sickness the current roster is more than sufficient.
Comment on procedure and number of staff required for locking up trains on route to depot?
One person stands on the platform to ensure no passengers board, the second person walks through the train to ensure there are no passengers left on board. The train doors get locked by the Driver when the person who walks through has confirmed with the person on the platform that there are no passengers on board. The train is then dispatched.
We would also like to confirm that all Dispatch Staff at Brighton are competent (including reliefs) and they have been fully briefed and sign documentation to confirm that they have been briefed.