25 February 2010

A Train Manager writes...

Dear Sirs,

I read with interest your cleverly-linked entry concerning guard-less trains in Scotland and on High Speed 1 and the unrest within British Airways.

I am a Train Manager for Southeaster Trains (SET) and work exclusively on the Class 395 'Javelin' trains that exclusively operate domestic train services along Britain's only high-speed railway line (for the time being). I had been a guard working the traditional commuter services for a number of years and was successful in my application for a sideways step onto the Javelins.

Your piece did not point out that we Train Managers receive a basic wage in excess of the traditional, safety-critical guards working standard SET services. I receive £25,500 p/a, compared with £23,800. In keeping with SET's guards, I too can refuse to work Sundays and so my working week is Monday-Saturday. I am not classified as 'safety-critical' and thus my training was slightly shorter than that which is offered elsewhere within SET.

The difference between someone like myself and a standard guard is best illustrated with overtime and commission from on-board ticket sales. I receive no greater rate of pay for working overtime and receive no commission for any ticket sales. SET's guards can earn in excess of £500 p/m just from the commission earned from selling tickets. They also receive a considerably enhanced hourly pay rate for working anything other than their basic contracted week.

In so doing, the vast majority of SET's guards earn more than a Train Manager each year. I chose to work the Javelins as I do not work any overtime due to my personal circumstances. If I chose to do the same as a safety-critical guard, I'd be financially worse-off. Yes, I have to clean the train at St. Pancras and top the toilet up with water and prepare the train for its next journey, but this is a price I personally am happy to pay.

Finally, re ScotRail's proposed Driver-only Operation. I believe that while not even a train manager will be present on these services, a team of Ticket Examiners will be present on the route, whose express job description is reflected in their title. They will work longer hours than guards and, unlike SET, be paid significantly less than a Train Manager - somewhere in the region of £18k p/a.

It's also worth pointing out that the safety-critical element of a guard's job differs slightly from one TOC to another. SET, for example, do not permit their guards control over opening the train doors at stations - only closing them. South West Trains and Transpennine Express, to name but two, offer their guards the role of having control over both the opening and closing of the train's doors. The removal of responsibility in just one aspect of the door procedure can lead to the threat of strike action, as guards see this is the start of a slippery slope to being ultimately downgraded to someone like me.

Congratulations on a very diverse and interesting blog.

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