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Guards on trains.


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Hi Guys

I have been a Passenger guard for ten years and diesel rail car driver for a couple of years at the Didcot railway centre.  Although I have no association with the big railway I am getting quite wound up with the current trend to remove guards from our suburban trains.The media are having a field day alleging the resulting dispute is all about who closes the doors. Good Grief!

Granted on preserved railways the Guard has to check all slam doors are closed and all passengers and onlookers are clear. When it is Safe give the right away to the driver. Having boarded  watch the platform during departure. If an incident occurrers you (guard) can stop the train by putting in the brake setter. Trust me during my ten years I have had to use the setter several times. My point is that Guards are a safety critical member of train crew. With their knowledge of the route and the emergency procedures not to mention a professional preasance and assistance to passengers, I think a qualified Guard is essential.

What do you think?


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A bit like politics, religion and Brexit this topic will always start an argument!

Firstly l do not work for the railway so can only speak of this issue as a passenger. I live in London where for many years the Underground has been operated by driver only trains without , so TfL tell us, without problems. Do l feel safe travelling, yes l do, l worry more about the beardy man with a rucksack sitting next to me than getting stuck in the doors. 

I belive though am not sure that if you use the emergecey button the driver will speak to you and decide weather its safe to continue to the next station , were he can summon help more easily. Where possiable now if there is a problem ahead trains are held in the staions rather than tunnels and if they are drivers now update passengers with the cause of dely etc. Control rooms are now in constant contact with the trains so they belive no second man is needed.

When TfL took over the urban services maketed as Overground they also dispensed with guards.

My local train operator is South west trains they still have two crew although the guard tends to wonder about the train  off peak. All the stations have cameras to allow one man operation and l suspect when the franchise changes shortly driver only operation will raise its ugly head. Do l feel safe, again yes. The dispute with Southern would on the face of it the unions being bloody minded, the guards will become "train managers" and no one looses there jobs. But a friend of mine who works for Southern points out that no one is pointing out that whilst Southern are telling the public that trains will be two manned as such they reserve the right to operate driver only trains should they need to. One suspects they will "need to" on a fairly regular basis if they can get away with it.

Anyway back to the original question, do l think guards are needed now, well on sliding door stock on local services, no probabilly not, on long distance services again no, not as traditional guards more as a a customer service role with safety functions as a major part of the job.

Now that was my view point until yesterday when l read in the paper that the driver of of a one man train had been sentenced to a long prision sentance for failing to check that it was safe to proced and left the station draging a passenger caught in the doors along the outside of the train. If a guard doing the job properly was there it would (maybe) not have happend.

The other thing that worries me is now that we are now working longer before we retire, and given the portly nature of some drivers that l see, how long before a driver has a heart attack or passes out whist driving, yes all the fail safes should bring the train to a halt but what happens then. Who summons help? The passengers will be sitting not nowing a thing.

So in a sitting on the fence conclusion, no l dont think there is now a need for traditional guards but l do think a second person with a safety role included is needed.

Yes it is raining and yes l have nothing else to do?

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Hi Jimbob

I agree that the role of a traditional guard has changed significantly over the years. However you make a good point over the Driver who drove off with a passenger trapped in the doors. I understood he was cleared of blame because of a train door sensor fault.

It does highlight the fact that he has to check the door closed warning, check the signal aspect the right away signal .

As the guard gives the close door request from the platform they will see trapped people. And as he has not given the Driver the right away or proceed signal the train should not move. 

Chatting to a Southwest trains guard the other Day, he pointed out that the second crew member on Driver operated trains is not safety trained and classed as non safety critical. 


I also have no connection with the big railway but a keen interest as a passenger . South Western Railway are going to raise the issue of driver only trains according to their top man on tv the other day.

Looks like this is the way of the world now.



Edited by Dave1013
Spell check error
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Going one step further say a programme last week about high speed trains and they had a man from Alstom on a French hst saying that they had done away with signals on the new French line and it was all controlled by computer now allowing trains to run closer together and boost line capaticy. He also said that this system could easly do away with the driver as well and the better reaction times of the computer would speed journeys as well.

I think the French drivers might already be laying in a supply of tyres for burning if that came in.

Come to that l dont think l fancy a HAL2000 driving the train at 200 mph without human supervision either.

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The mind boggles!

What if your beardy man with the rucksack on the tube was a computer hacker.

I use the Hornby railmaster computer controlled  set up on my indoor layout. Although I'm not suggesting the French are using a scaled up railmaster but if they do its ok cos very little will run.

Mind you look at the Docklands railway that seems to work ok

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Here in the North East we have the Tyne and Wear Metro system. 2 or 4 coach units that run on reopened lines that Beeching did away with. All are driver only. CCTV and mirrors on the platform ends allow the driver to see the length of his train as he closes the doors.  Safe---yes, except for there being no control over the hooligans who will always make trouble given half a chance. The driver also sits in a half cab and can be contacted by rapping on his window!


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I have been on the Metro several times and agree it runs very well. Like the London underground I can't see any benefit of a guard or second crew. I still believe that it is beneficial to have a qualified second train crew on suburban main line routes. It is funny how people who use Metro type services seem to know the rules on how to use them. Unlike some passengers on the "big" railway.

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