London mayor Sadiq Khan today publicly distanced himself from unions disrupting Southern rail passengers by insisting that a move to driver only operated trains would be “safe”.
Southern has been blighted by months of strike action caused by a row over the move to DOO which sees responsibility for closing and monitoring train doors move away from conductors to drivers.
Rail unions oppose the change, claiming it is less safe than the current staffing model however around 40% of the UK’s train services, including the London Overground, already operate this way.
A strike planned for next week was suspended to allow fresh talks between both sides to go ahead.
Mr Khan has repeatedly called on the Government to pass temporary control of Southern to Transport for London to allow it to be separated into London-only services run by TfL long term and non-London services which would be re-tendered.
Despite his calls, the Mayor has previously deflected questions of whether DOO is safe, with officials saying “it’s too early” for Mr Khan to take a view on the issue.
However appearing at Mayor’s Question Time on Wednesday, Mr Khan said both the trains running on the Overground and those being introduced on Southern are “safe”.
The mayor’s comments could undermine the unions’ case and publicly puts him at odds with some of his own major backers.
Mr Khan also said the London Overground’s success proved TfL could turn around failing rail services and called on Transport Secretary both to revisit his refusal to hand over Southern to TfL and his decision to abandon the wider rail devolution project.