RMT rep Millie Apedo-Amah, a train guard for 27 years, explains the vital role of a train guard and why they are the eyes and ears of the railways.
1 – You need excellent customer service skills
You’re interacting with passengers every day so you need to be polite and helpful. It’s about looking after the best interests of the public and making sure they have the information they need to get to their destination – part of the job is to make announcements. I regularly deal with upset and angry customers and I need to be able to respond professionally.
2 – You’re there to look after the safety of passengers
As a train guard you have to be prepared for an emergency, whether it’s a fire, an accident or even a terrorist attack. In this type of situation, the guard is in charge and will evacuate the passengers. One day on the job, the train driver had a heart attack and I had to put the brakes on, position the train into an emergency position and secure it. If a passenger pulls the emergency alarm, the guard has to investigate this (the train driver stays in their car). We’re also responsible for calling the British Transport Police and signallers if there is an emergency.
3 – You need to be a people person
When I joined the railway, I was in the ticket office for my six-month probation, which I hated as I don’t like confined spaces. I’m an outgoing person so I decided to train to become a guard. I love helping people: we get a lot of older people travelling who haven’t been on a train for a long time. You need to stay with them and reassure them. It’s a fulfilling part of the job.
4 – The guard is a second pair of eyes for the driver
When the train pulls in to each station, I step out onto the platform to make sure passengers are getting on and off the train safely. Before giving the signal to the driver, I check everyone is on the train and clothes and bags aren’t caught in doors.
5 – It’s just not safe to run trains without a guard
The railway industry is trying to cut costs by switching over to ‘driver-only operation’. But both the drivers and the guards know this isn’t safe – and it doesn’t give better customer service. That’s why we’re campaigning with our union to keep guards on the trains.