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More strike misery for Sunderland and Hartlepool rail travellers

Northern staff are to strike next month.
Northern staff are to strike next month.

Rail passengers face fresh disruption after another strike was called in the long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union working for Arriva Rail North, which operates Northern services through Sunderland and Hartlepool, will take industrial action on Wednesday, May 9, for 24 hours.

The announcement was made at a protest in Westminster on Wednesday to mark the second anniversary of the dispute over the widespread introduction of driver-only trains.

Hundreds of RMT members from a number of rail firms, disability campaigners and passengers joined the Westminster demonstration before they lobbied MPs.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Yet again the intransigence of private rail companies operating in England over the key issue of the guard guarantee means that we have no option but to announce further strike action in the separate disputes on Arriva Rail North, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway.

"With RMT members protesting outside Parliament today we are drawing attention to the ludicrous situation that means we are able to reach agreements in Wales and Scotland on the guard guarantee but not on a raft of key franchises in England.

"If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to put rail safety first then it should be good enough for the rest of Britain."

Local stations to be affected along the Newcastle-Middlesbrough route on May 9 include Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham although Northern has previously run more than 50 per cent of services on strike days.

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: “Our modernisation plans are well underway with almost £500m of new trains under construction, 90 refurbished trains in service, £8m spent so far on improving our stations, extra services from May and much more to come by 2020.

“We urge RMT to move away from its nationally co-ordinated campaign and allow its local representatives to engage in meaningful discussions with us on how we better serve customers on-board.

“We are still prepared to offer unprecedented guarantees of jobs and pay reviews until the end of our franchise in 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that, but both guarantees depend on RMT ending its strike action.”

Northern is expected to announce its May 9 emergency timetable shortly.