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Talks continue to resolve RMT/FGW dispute

Talks between First Great Western (FGW) and the RMT union are set to continue over catering and door operation on the Class 800 and AT300 fleets, and door operation on Class 165/166 diesel multiple units. RMT members went on strike over the issues on August 29-31.

FGW says that there will be no extension of Driver Only Operation (DOO), and that a qualified train manager will be retained on every train. However, the RMT remains adamant that control of train doors must remain with the guard.

Drivers on the Hitachi Class 801/AT300 trains are to open and close doors, with visibility provided by onboard cameras. A similar arrangement applies to the Class 165/166 units.

RMT spokesman Phil Bialyk told RAIL the union will hold discussions with driver’s union ASLEF about DOO, and that it is seeking further talks with FGW. It also believes that catering on Class 801s working from London to Bristol and South Wales should be provided by a dedicated facility rather than the at-seat trolley service currently planned.

However, FGW spokesman Dan Panes says the trolley service remains planned for the Class 800s.

“How do you get passengers in coaches A, B, and C to use a buffet?” he asked, explaining that the company’s research shows passengers in those coaches on High Speed Trains are reluctant to leave their belongings unattended while they go to a buffet coach.

Asked how a trolley service would be able to navigate heavily loaded trains with passengers standing, he said: “One solution may be to park the trolley in a single location that reduces the distance passengers have to walk to in Standard Class.”

Catering on the AT300s, which are dedicated to London-Devon/Cornwall services, could be provided by a dedicated buffet facility.

“There is a different customer profile on trains to Devon and Cornwall,” Panes said, adding: “We are committed to having buffets , but that commitment was part of a specific set of proposals that came as a package deal with driver-operated doors as part of it.”

Maintenance of the Class 800/AT300 fleets remains a sticking point, and the RMT is holding discussions at a national level with train builder Hitachi. The union is seeking a security of jobs deal and is investigating possible Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) moves for staff affected.

FGW says a voluntary redundancy package is available for maintenance staff affected, as well as assistance to help people switch between roles.

“There will be more staff on trains, and no compulsory job losses in ticket offices or on station platforms,” Panes concluded.

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  • Philip Walker - 08/09/2015 14:03

    I think the union are right that the guard/train manager, due to their customer care and train manager role, is the natural person to open and shut the doors on long-distance express/inter-city trains. I think the management is right that people prefer at-seat trolley services to having to leave their seats for lengthy times to go to buffets and restaurants. I do. Surely an-seat hot meal restaurant-standard services should be possible in every first class carriage at least as there are fewer 1st class carriages, and perhaps airline-style hot meals in standard class. But some prefer restaurants and is FGW planning to keep them as well as buffets on the West Country AT300s?

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