Tatton MP Esther McVey writes 'The Managing Director of Northern Rail has just written to update me on the strike action afflicting rail services across the region. I thought you would be interested in what he says;
'In December we announced the latest efforts we are taking to resolve the RMT dispute and end the damage the RMT is causing to the economy of the North.
We formally wrote to ACAS requesting it uses its powers to establish an independent inquiry into the issues at the heart of RMT’s dispute with Northern.
The Department for Transport and Transport for the North have publicly confirmed that a second person, in addition to the driver, will be retained on Northern services. The independent inquiry would look at the future role of the second person that will be on Northern services, in addition to the driver, to help customers with accessibility, security, ticketing, information and any other help required.
The inquiry would also explore the feasibility of Driver Controlled Operation, in which the driver has full operational control of the train, including the train doors.
I wanted to take this opportunity to write to share more detail about why we have taken this step and how the independent inquiry would operate.
This Saturday, 19 January will be RMT’s 45th day of strike action since March 2017. Northern has held talks with RMT, both independently and with ACAS mediation, on several occasions without any significant progress being made.
We see no credible reason why an inquiry would not be welcomed. Stakeholders and customers want all parties to get the round the table to resolve this dispute, the inquiry would enable this to happen.
An independent inquiry
The inquiry would be led by an independent chairperson appointed by ACAS. They would be impartial and have no vested interest in the outcome of the inquiry.
The inquiry would look at the future role of the second person on the train across the Northern network and explore the feasibility of Driver Controlled Operation (DCO), in which the driver has full operational control of the train, including the train doors.
The chairperson would initially ask Northern and RMT to agree a Terms of Reference, which will set out the full scope of the inquiry. The chairperson would then investigate with appropriate stakeholders, who they believe are best placed, to give evidence on the topics within the scope of the inquiry. This could include customer groups, business groups, accessibility bodies and the rail industry. Following consideration of all evidence, the chairperson will write a report that sets out their findings and conclusions.
The inquiry does not have to be a lengthy process and we would expect industrial action to be suspended while it is underway.
Participation in an inquiry
ACAS needs the support of both Northern and RMT to agree to the impartial and independent inquiry, only with that will ACAS then carry one out. Northern is committed to it and will assess and act upon the recommendations of the inquiry. Unfortunately, RMT is not legally obliged to participate in the inquiry and if they don’t, then the inquiry cannot go ahead.
RMT have stated throughout the dispute that it is all about passenger safety and accessibility, so we would expect that they will want to ensure that their arguments and evidence are considered by this independent and impartial inquiry.
The RMT dispute means customers, businesses and the wider economy in the North have suffered the cost of 45 days of strikes, including every Saturday since the end of August. Customers, employers and colleagues are looking for both parties to resolve the dispute.
More than half (53%) of all rail journeys in the UK are made on driver-controlled trains, with the Department for Transport and Transport for the North publicly confirming that a second person – in addition to the driver – will be retained on Northern services.
RMT has also suggested that Northern will not take seriously the findings of an independent inquiry. This is not true. We are committed to acting upon the recommendations of an independent ACAS inquiry.
I trust that the above has been useful and that you feel an independent inquiry is a positive step in resolving the RMT dispute.