All change on the trains for better and worse | Letters

All change on the trains for better and worse | Letters

Your editorial (9 August) talks about train guards. But British Rail abolished guards on passenger trains many years ago, and changed the job to conductors. This difference in terminology is not pedantic, it is important. Guards used to share the responsibility for the safety of the train with drivers, and consequently guards had to have route knowledge – not just knowing about where stations were located, but locations of signals, signalboxes and an extensive knowledge of the rulebook. With the change to conductors the requirement for detailed route and rule knowledge was greatly diminished. The proposed change at the heart of the current Southern dispute is one more step along this road: from guard to conductor, and now from conductor to customer service agent. In the eyes of railwaymen and women, that this is one further step in diminishing responsibility. But railways are now very safe indeed as far as the technical business of trains and signalling are concerned; perhaps the greatest threat to the safety of a rail passenger is from another passenger, and it thus makes sense to change the conductor’s focus from the train to its passengers.
Ian Watson

• Coming back from West Dulwich to Victoria on 20 June, on a Southern train, I fell while getting on the 20.21 pm train by the door nearest the front of the train, and my legs went down the gap between the train and the platform edge. Luckily I didn’t go down any further but ended up sitting on the edge of the platform. The driver did not know I had fallen and shut the train doors and his own door, getting ready to depart. One of my bags was on the train and the other went onto the track. I yelled for someone to stop the driver from driving the train away and luckily a passenger who was leaving the train did.

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Source: Guardian Transport

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