DfT says the requirement for driver-only operated trains wasn't consulted on before the letting of Southern Rail franchise

 
Rebecca Smith
Strike action has plagued Southern Rail for months
Strike action has plagued Southern Rail for months (Source: Getty)

The department for transport (DfT) has confirmed the requirement for driver-only operated (DOO) trains was not consulted on prior to the letting of the Southern Rail franchise.

Facing a grilling by the transport select committee as it met to discuss the subject of rail franchising, Peter Wilkinson, managing director of passenger services at the DfT said, “The honest answer is, I don’t know”, when asked how it had been left out, despite being included in initial tendering documents.

“I think it was just a copying of practice that had been in the franchising system since privatisation,” he added, denying it had been a deliberate omission because the move was contentious.

Read more: Aslef's not happy with Southern over claims it cancelled a strike ballot

Rows over the introduction of DOO have been at the heart of months of strike action carried out by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

Louise Ellman, chair of the committee, also said that the department had previously said performance was measured against the original timetable for Southern Rail, when in fact Network Rail later confirmed it was actually measured against the plan of the day, determined the night before at 10pm.

"I apologise if I gave you the wrong information," Wilkinson said. When asked if it was a mistake or an intention to deceive, he replied: "I'm the last person to want to deceive this committee or anyone for that matter."

Read more: Southern Rail commuters had very British responses to today's train chaos

The mistake was due to a "genuine lack of knowledge on my part", rather than anything intentional, Wilkinson added.

With more strike action planned for the coming months, Huw Merriman MP for Bexhill and Battle asked if there was an end in sight for the RMT versus Southern saga.

Rail minister Paul Maynard said he remained extremely frustrated and continue to "urge RMT to put the needs of the passengers first and to call off their strikes".

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