The RMT union are doing everything they can to position their latest strike action as being about passenger safety rather than simply about jobs for their members. If this argument is to be compelling, it needs to go further than simply maintaining the status quo. The RMT could perhaps win the argument using some of these ideas.
- Ensuring that all train guards are qualified first aiders. At the moment, train guards don’t provide first aid assistance. This would significantly reassure the public that the human guard was providing more value than any kind of automated service.
- Support the development of an app that would allow passengers to track where on a train the guard was. At the moment, the role of the guard may well be underrated as it is so invisible. If passengers could easily see where the guard was, they would be safer (i.e., by going to sit near them if they felt scared or intimidated). Again, this is about maximising the value of a human being on board other than the driver.
- A commitment that guards will intervene in disruptions and anti-social behaviour on trains. If a guard is simply reporting or alerting others of anti-social behaviour they are adding no more value than a driver or remote security team who are able to monitor lots of train carriages at once and report any issues.
The point I am trying to make is that trains can be made safer by the presence of a human being on board other than the driver. But if the RMT is arguing to preserve a role that can be easily automated, or is not prepared to be creative about how guards can improve passenger safety this strike will do nothing more than accelerate the full automation of rail travel.