Sunderland and Hartlepool rail passengers hit by another day of Northern strikes

Northern staff are striking again on Thursday.
Northern staff are striking again on Thursday.

A fresh wave of rail strikes hits the region today with disputes over the role of guards and driver-only trains becoming increasingly bitter.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Arriva Rail North, which runs the Northern service between Newcastle and Middlesbrough, will stage a second 24-hour walkout of the week.

It means Northern will only be able to run just under half of its usual number of trains throughout Thursday with passengers using Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations among those affected.

Staff at three other rail operators will also strike with employees at the new South Western Railway franchise set to join the dispute after voting heavily in favour of industrial action over a similar row.

The RMT now claims the plans for driver-only trains will increase safety fears by leaving hundreds of Northern stations unmanned.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "No staff on many routes and lines, no staff on the stations and no staff on the trains travelling through these stations means there will be a cocktail of dangers at the locations we have identified which will increasingly become no-go areas for vulnerable passengers and new crime hot spots.

"At the same time our isolated drivers will be on their own, increasingly exposed to anti-social and violent behaviour."

But Richard Allan, Northern's deputy managing director, said: "Our plans will see staff more visible and available than ever before on trains and stations.

"We want to keep a second person on many of our services and, at some locations, we may choose to staff the station to give better customer support.

"We are investing in people and systems to make the railway even safer; for example we now have 55 travel safe officers who work on trains and stations to help prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour.

"Any changes we want to make to services or our stations are fully risk assessed, widely discussed, and approved in accordance with relevant legislation."

As with Tuesday's strike, eight services are running in either direction between Newcastle and Middlesbrough between 7am-7pm. Full details can be found at www.northernrailway.co.uk/industrial-action