Hartlepool councillors get on board with campaign to keep guards on trains

A Northern Rail train at Hartlepool Railway Station.
A Northern Rail train at Hartlepool Railway Station.

Councillors in Hartlepool have got on board with a campaign against plans which could allow local trains to run without guards.

A motion backed by councillors says the proposals by Northern Rail and other rail companies removing the guarantee of a guard on trains could put passengers at risk.

Councillor Alan Clark

Councillor Alan Clark

It also supports the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union’s Guard Guarantee campaign against driver only operated trains.

Councillor Alan Clark, who proposed the motion, said: “It is about having somebody on board for passengers’ personal safety.

“The proposals removing that guarantee is about putting profit before people in my view on what is supposed to be a public service.

“Guards are on trains for a reason. If you take those guards away there will also be job losses.

“It doesn’t make sense.”

The motion says guards protect passenger safety and they perform an important role in emergencies such as derailments, fires, evacuations and driver incapacity.

It received cross-party support from Hartlepool councillors.

Coun Clark added: “Also at unmanned stations such as Billingham they help people, including disabled people, to get on board and alight.”

The RMT says half of Northern trains would be allowed to run without a guard in future under the plans.

It says: “A poll of Northern Rail passengers found overwhelming opposition to Driver Only Operation with 75% of passengers saying they would be concerned about their safety if their train no longer had a guard.”

The union says 1,200 jobs are at risk under the proposal.

A spokesman for train operator Northern said: “Rail passengers across the north want and deserve modern train services and we are happy to outline our plans further with Hartlepool Borough Council as they develop.

“Modernising Northern is the biggest change to local rail for a generation.

“We will maintain high safety standards, deliver faster and more frequent services, more space, better stations, and staff will be more visible and available than ever before.

“More than 30 updated trains are already out and about on the network, and 111 stations will be upgraded by the end of December – so we are already delivering on our promise.

“Once delivered, the North will be a better place to live and work.”