Is it safe to manage a station with less staff?
The recent claims in the news that LUL are planning to reduce the numbers of staff on station platforms (http://bit.ly/biujz9) highlights the issue of the role of staff in stations and how information and control systems are used to manage them.
We know that passenger satisfaction is strongly linked to the visible presence of staff in stations – they provide a source of live information and a sense of security. This is not easily replaced by information systems or operators in a central control room.
Technology can have a role. We are frequently asked to look at new technology and determine if its use gives an operation that can be as safe as a human being on the front-line. For example, our recent work looking at the use of CCTV in driver only operated trains provided evidence that it was a safe process.
However, people have qualities that are not easily replicated or replaced by technology. So caution must always be taken to use technology where it is appropriate and not where people are better.
The final issue is can stations be effectively managed from a control room? Can operators have a full awareness of situations through using IT systems and CCTV images or do they need people on the ground to support them? Do staff on the platforms enable a better quality of commnunication to passengers or management of a crowd?
Situations such as evacuation or crowding are complex and dynamic and the role of station staff is important although it is difficult to demonstrate that operation without them is inherently unsafe or impractical.
The balance in these areas is difficult to achieve but it needs consideration of the operational situation and a careful allocation of the role of the human and of technology.