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Train Conductor (UK)Edit

See also: Revenue Protection Inspector

In the UK, the person with ultimate responsibility for operation of a train is usually described as the Guard. The term 'guard' is derived from the days of stagecoaches.

Until the later part of the 20th Century, Guards on passenger trains in these countries did not have routine responsibilities for ticket inspection or sale. Their jobs focused more on safe operation of their trains, timekeeping and handling parcels and other consignments. In recent years, passenger train Guards have been assigned more responsibility for on-train revenue collection and ticket inspection. When the Guard has a significant customer contact role, the position is usually classified as Conductor-Guard or Conductor.

On long-distance expresses, the Conductor's title is sometimes enhanced to Senior Conductor in line with the implied prestige of operating these trains and historically under British Rail the long distance InterCity trains were normally worked by the most senior guards at the depot. Hence the name Senior Conductor. Several of the more recent private passenger train operators in the UK have further renamed the (Senior) Conductor's passenger facing title to 'Train Manager', although in the Network Rail Rule Book they are still referred to simply as the Guard.

As well as ticketing and customer care, most Guards are trained in 'emergency protection' duties, should an emergency arise. This involves using emergency kit such as detonators, track clips and flags to prevent other trains colliding with, for example a derailed train. If in a crash the driver became incapacitated the Guard is often the only person left who can protect the train.

Tram (streetcar) conductorEdit

Many antique or heritage trams (streetcars), which operated through the earlier part of the 20th Century, were designed for operation by a crew of two or more. The conductor primarily collected fares and signaled the driver when safe to depart from stopping places. The conductor also assisted with shunting when necessary, changing the trolley pole and attended to passengers' needs.

Modern vehicle design and ticketing arrangements have largely done away with the need for conductors on street railways and Light Rail systems. However in recent years a number of modern tram or Light Rail systems have introduced (or re-introduced) conductors to minimise fare evasion and to provide customer care, supervision and security functions, even in situations where a second crew member is not strictly needed on account of the vehicle design or operation.

Systems of ticket checking and selling by a conductor:

  • takes place while entering, the vehicle cannot leave until this is (almost) finished
  • takes place after entering an entrance lobby, while the vehicle already moves, after which the passenger moves to the seating area of the car
  • the passengers get seated and the conductor comes to them

Modern mass transit systems which operate with conductors on trams include:-

Midland MetroBirmingham / Wolverhampton, UK.
Blackpool tramwayBlackpool, UK - on pre-World War II vehicles.
Nottingham Express TransitNottingham, UK.
Sheffield SupertramSheffield, UK.

Bus conductorEdit

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Up until the 1970s and into the early 1980s, conductors, or "clippies", were a common feature of many local bus services in larger towns and cities in the UK and Ireland. Conductors were portrayed in the British TV series, On The Buses.

The main reason why two-person crews were needed was that most towns and cities used double deck vehicles for their urban bus services and until the 1960s, all double deck vehicles were built with front-mounted engines and a 'half-cab' design (like the familiar Routemaster London bus). This layout totally separated the driver from the passenger saloons. The conductor would communicate with the driver using a series of bell codes, such as 2 bells to start (the well known "ding-ding").

Many of the half cab double deckers were boarded from an open platform at the rear, while other buses were equipped with a forward entrance and staircase and automatic doors operated by the driver. In each case a conductor was needed to collect fares and, especially on the rear-entrance design, supervise passenger loading and unloading. In some places, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were experiments with later forward entrance half-cab double deckers to remove the conductor and have the driver in charge of selling tickets as on the rear entrance buses that were common by that time, therefore giving the benefits of one person operation without the cost of replacing vehicles that still had some years life left in them. These were unsuccessful though since the driver was required to turn around to deal with passengers, usually through a small opening between the driver's and passenger compartments, and this idea was soon scrapped and the buses reverted to conventional conductor operation.

In the late 1950s, new designs of higher-capacity double-decker buses began to be introduced with the engine compartment at the rear of the vehicle and the entrance directly adjacent to the driver. From July 1966, UK transport regulations were changed to allow operation of urban double-deck buses by the driver only, who could now take responsibility for fare collection as well as supervise all passenger loading and unloading.

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The new designs of rear-engined buses and so-called 'one person operation' were adopted quickly by some municipal operators, more slowly by others. New half-cab buses continued to be ordered by the more conservative municipal operators through the 1960s, but manufacture of this type of vehicle for the UK market had ceased by about 1970. This was accelerated by a UK Government grant which supported the purchase of 'one person operated' vehicles, but was not available for purchase of traditional half-cab buses.

Through the 1970s the proportion of urban bus routes operated with conductors declined, as older vehicles were steadily replaced with new buses equipped for one-person-operation, and operators grappled with staff shortages, rapidly increasing costs and falling ridership. By the early 1980s bus conductors were largely obsolete in all cities except London and Dublin.

London was a special case, with two-person crews continuing to operate a number of bus routes in central London until late 2005, well beyond their demise in the rest of the country. This reprieve for conductors was due to continued use of the famous Routemaster bus.

The Routemaster had been purpose-built for London conditions and continued to be very well suited to the busiest routes in the most congested parts of central London. This was because of its maneuverability, fast passenger loading/unloading capability and fare collection by the conductor instead of the driver. The construction of the Routemaster vehicles was of high-quality, the design robust and the mechanical and body parts could be easily re-built and refurbished, which all greatly improved the vehicle's durability. Importantly, the 'traditional red bus' is also a unique tourism icon for London, instantly recognisable around the world.

Although the majority of bus services in the London metropolis (and all routes outside the central area) have been operated by modern driver-only vehicles since the late 1980s, 20 regular routes retained Routemasters and conductors in 2003. Between 2003 and 2005, each of these has been progressively converted to modern vehicles and one-person-operation. The process was largely driven by a political agenda on disability-accessibility, and assisted to some extent by the increase in litigious passengers claiming injuries due to the Routemaster's open rear platform. There were also increasingly frequent robberies and attacks on conductors, who could find themselves working in an isolated and vulnerable environment.

The last 'regular' (as opposed to tourist-oriented) Routemaster-operated service was the 159 from Marble Arch to Streatham. Conductor operation finally ceased on the 159 on 9 December 2005.

See also Edit