Councils across West Yorkshire – including Kirklees – have stated their opposition to driver only trains on Northern Rail Services.
Rail workers union the RMT welcomed the move by West Yorkshire Combined Authority which covers Kirklees, Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Wakefield and York councils for supporting the union’s campaign to keep guards on Northern rail services.
The union said the backing was all the more significant as the combined authority is a key part of Rail North, the organisation that jointly oversees the Northern franchise with the Department for Transport.
Following the combined authority’s stance, the RMT said the vast majority of councils in Rail North areas were opposed to driver only operation.
Northern staff who are members of the RMT have staged several strike days in their campaign against the move to have just drivers operating the trains.
In a letter to the RMT Clr Keith Wakefield, chair of the combined authority’s transport committee, wrote: “The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has supported RMT’s concern for passenger safety under the proposed driver only operation.
“Given the disruption to passengers we have urged that the Government intervenes to bring about a fair settlement like they have in Scotland which gives assurances to vulnerable passengers.”
The deal in Scotland kept the guarantee of guards on new modern trains and resolved a long running dispute.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT welcomes this latest round of political support for our campaign to keep the guard on the train in the north. There is also now opposition to driver only trains from councils in the vast majority of Rail North areas.
“In fact, we are not aware of one council in the north that has voted to support driver only trains on Arriva Rail North services. “
He said: “To protect safety, security and accessibility, the Welsh and Scottish Government have already said there will be no expansion of driver only trains on their services and passengers in the north should be treated no differently.
“It is time for Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) and the government in London to stop blocking a resolution of this dispute in the north.”
The RMT union argues that driver only trains would be unsafe and lead to widespread job losses.
The train operator said driver operated trains were a safe way of working and were in regular use across the rail network in the UK and abroad.
Prof George Bearfield, a former student at the University of Huddersfield and visiting professor of rail safety, said driver only trains were just as safe as trains with guards. From staffed platforms, driver only trains are shown to have been significantly safer than those with doors operated by a guard, he said.