Axing guards and conductors from rail services in the North of England could make passengers less safe, MPs have warned.
And they urged the region’s new rail authority, formed by local councils, to pressure the Government to reverse plans to run trains with no staff on board except the driver.
MPs from across the North East issued the plea in an official House of Commons motion.
They criticised proposals to make do without guards or conductors on the Northern Rail and Transpennine Express franchises.
A draft franchise agreement drawn up by the Department for Transport makes it clear that the new franchise, coming into effect in April 2016, will include trains without guards or conductors.
It states that “at least 50%” of services should be run as what is called a “Driver Controlled Operation”.
This means “operation of a train by a driver alone without the need for a conductor (or any other franchise employee).”
But the decision has been condemned by MPs who signed a motion warning it would mean passengers found it harder to get help or travel advice when they needed it, and would also be less safe on trains.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, Gateshead MP Ian Mearns and Easington MP Grahame Morris joined colleagues including some MPs from the North West to protest against the changes.
A North East MP has entered the row over proposed changes to mental health services that will see scores of jobs lost in the North East.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says vulnerable patients and their families are left feeling abandoned by plans to alter the way that important services are delivered in the region.
Controversial plans have been made by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust to close mental health wards, relocate service and develop new units.
Mr Lavery said: “I have met with a number of my constituents who use the services and they feel that they are being abandoned by the mental health trust.
“It really concerns me the planned changes that have been made. We cannot sit back and say that everything is fine because the reality is that it is not. These changes will put real and increased strain on patients and their families.
“We cannot get rid of such critical services. It would appear that these changes are being made to cut costs with patients not being the main focus.”
Under the proposals, as many as 169 frontline NHS posts will be axed and more than 90 beds reduced as more care is delivered in the community.
Each year since 2010, the trust has been required to make savings of approximately £12m while meeting the same levels of demand.
Health chiefs are adamant that the proposals will significantly improve patient care while delivering cost savings to ensure services remain viable in the long-term.
James Duncan, acting chief executive of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have listened very carefully to the feedback we have received from service users, carers and our partners in recent years so that we can play our part in providing the best modern mental health services for local people, designed around their needs.
“Building on this, we have embarked on a challenging transformation programme to ensure that our services continue to be high quality, are easier to access and provide the best value for money.
“It is important to remember that the vast majority of people who use our services are supported in the community, with only about 3% needing to spend time in hospital. Alongside changes to inpatient services, we have also seen significant improvements in mental health services locally.”
Staff at the health trust have undergone a consultation process and a number of public engagement events have taken place to discuss the proposals.
It is expected that all the changes will be in place within the next two to three years.
Source – Newcastle Journal 05 May 2014