In the scheduled coach industry, services are forced to comply with EC Drivers' Hours Regulation 561/2006, requiring a driver to have a break after 4.5 hours. If a second driver is conveyed, this is the reason why. Ensuring an attractive end-to-end journey time for the passenger can help business, so this inefficiency is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. Even when a second driver is needed, he/she is diagrammed as intensively as possible. It is nothing to see some coach drivers 'jumping' a coach along the M1 for an hour, where he/she will then leave at the next motorway services, before doing the same to a coach heading in the opposite direction. It is very rare to see a scheduled coach service with the same two drivers throughout (I can immediately think of two but as a percentage of every single scheduled coach service that operates today, this isn't even 1%). Company cars are sometimes used to enable drivers to change near to their base but to prevent an unnecessary diversion to the coach journey, taking a fleet car is, again, the lesser of two evils.
The railway industry is an altogether different beast. A letter in the latest RAIL details how taxis are used on a daily basis to convey a Virgin Trains driver between Liverpool and Chester and how one is used to transport an Arriva Trains Wales conductor between Holyhead and Chester. I wonder if it is the same one? A retired train driver friend of mine who lives in Lincolnshire was sent home by taxi each and every night he was rostered to work lates (one week in 3) from Waterloo station in central London. He was not the only one: a taxi took an employee from Norfolk home, too.
This kind of wastage is all too apparent in the rail industry. Part of me agrees with the line taken by hardened unionists, that being a member of a heavily unionised workforce and standing your ground from the start ensures that, more often than not, you'll win and that particular derogation to your contract of employment will be retained. But then the nature of the railways meant that privatisation was never going to be a carbon copy of that with buses and coaches. The prescriptive nature and micro-management by the DfT has, in my opinion, assisted the industry's workers in maintaining almost identical contracts of employment fifteen years after privatisation got underway.
The McNulty Report essentially recommended everyone sitting down and chatting about how best to turn the tide on the railway's spiralling costs. More efficient scheduling that removes the use of taxis on a daily basis must surely be a starting point. The public is largely shielded from this area of wastage but less so when it affects them directly: the cancellation of all Sunday services because either drivers or guards (or in some cases both) are not contractually obliged to work on the Sabbath. Colloquially known as Barbecue Days, these debilitating incidents have affected me on a number of occasions with Central Trains and now East Midlands Trains. This should also be one of the first things that need to be addressing. Arriva Trains Wales and London Midland have also suffered over the past couple of years.
The very fact they're known as Barbecue Days has a number of unpalatable undertones to me. This can have a knock-on effect to the following day as trains are often positioned incorrectly and a reduced service with yet more replacement buses are the order of the day on the busy Monday morning - costing many thousands of pounds. Coaches used to provide replacement road transport are usually paid a set fee per day, of around £500. Consider, say, Wales being without any trains for a day, and the cost is not inconsiderable.
Tackling these inefficiencies first are going to be relatively easy - when you consider McNulty would like to see the removal of safety-critical guards from virtually all trains - and they will make tangible savings. In the scheme of things they won't go anywhere near tipping the balance, but they will be a start. If movement can't be made in these areas, the thorny issue of Driver Only Operation will never, ever be resolved.