FRESH talks to end an ongoing dispute on plans for new driver-only trains have broken down as union bosses and Merseyrail chiefs failed to reach a settlement.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union walked out for 24 hours last Monday in protest at plans for driver-controlled only operation on new trains.

Merseyrail went to the High Court in London to try to avert the action but failed.

During today's meeting the RMT reiterated their stance that there should be a second person deployed on every Merseyrail train, despite having stated previously that the talks did not carry pre-conditions.

Like most new trains ordered for intensive urban railways, they will operate without a traditional guard, but there will still be staff on-board, focusing on customer rather than operational duties.

Merseyrail believe that they have already made clear that all the current permanent guards will be guaranteed an alternative job within the business, with salary levels protected and that no guard will be forced to leave Merseyrail’s employment.

The train operator is said to be disappointed by the outcome of this meeting, but remain committed to resolving the dispute.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail managing director said: "I don’t know why the RMT agreed to our invitation to come in and talk today, unless it was maintain appearances.

“They took an intransigent position and wouldn’t discuss any of the items we put forward, including the guarantee of continued employment for the existing guards on the same salaries as now, salaries which start at £28,000.”

Mick Cash RMT General Secretary said: “The blame for collapsing today’s crucial talks lies firmly and squarely with Merseyrail who appear to have no interest whatsoever in discussing the core issues at the heart of this dispute.

“Merseyrail’s intransigence and determination to bring in Driver Only Operated trains at all costs, sees the dispute continue and RMT's executive will now consider a report from our regional officer and the next steps in our industrial, political and public campaign."

During the meeting the RMT asked the following questions:

RMT question 1: Will Merseyrail fully comply with the RAIB report recommendation into the James Street fatal accident that under the new fleet, the driver will monitor via in-cab CCTV screens, the full dispatch process uninterrupted until the train is clear of the platform?
Merseyrail’s answer: The RMT question does not accurately reflect the RAIB report recommendations. The approach to the procurement of the new fleet, including method of dispatch and associated equipment has fundamentally been driven by the requirement to meet the RAIB recommendations. The driver is the right person to fulfil this role and will be, responsible for dispatch, and able to observe the platform train interface, via in-cab CCTV screens without interruption.

The RAIB recommendation states this should be for as long as possible, ideally until the train has left the platform. This method of dispatch is already fully covered in Rail Industry Standards and will be subject to full safety validation and risk assessment, to ensure dispatch is undertaken safely. Let’s not forget that driver-only operation (DOO) and monitoring of CCTV has been commonplace on the UK rail network for many years and has been validated as safe by independent regulatory bodies. This arrangement is what RMT drivers on the London Underground currently follow.

RMT’s question 2: Are Merseyrail prepared to financially contribute to any proposals that retain a safety critical, safety trained second member of staff on board the new trains that are able to carry out safety duties during an operational incident, such as train evacuation?
Merseyrail’s answer: Merseyrail already contributes via the profit share mechanism, which is being used to part fund the new trains. The contracts are clear and we will be held financially neutral.

RMT’s question 3: Will there be such a second person on ALL of the new trains?
Merseyrail’s answer: There will not be a second person on all trains, as the intention is that the on-board customer service staff are deployed at key locations and times. But, we are willing to work with the RMT regarding the detail of operational deployment of on-board staff on our network. We would also remind the RMT that there are other staff operating on-board the trains, such as revenue protection staff, security staff, cleaners, as well as the British Transport Police.