More strikes loom as Sunderland and Hartlepool train row talks are quickly derailed

Northern rail users face another three Saturdays of reduced services.
Northern rail users face another three Saturdays of reduced services.

Rail union bosses say they are “angry, frustrated and determined to fight on in the interests of passenger safety” after the apparent collapse of safety talks.

Passengers using Northern's services at Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations now face three more Saturdays of strike action this month.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) workers union and the rail operators parent company, Arriva Rail North (ARN), were due to begin discussions chaired by arbitration service Acas on Tuesday morning after suggestions of new government funding to safeguard the future role of guards.

Talks were initially delayed before quickly collapsing amid RMT claims that ARN still would not guarantee the guards' responsibilities.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash: "Frankly, it defies belief that, despite the spin from the Government last week, the very basic issue of a funding package to underpin a second person on Northern trains has been booted into the long grass. That is a disgrace.

“RMT is sick of being treated with contempt and taken for a ride by those at the controls of the basket-case Northern Rail franchise and their paymasters in Government.

Their cynical actions have collapsed the talks process and the programme of strike action remains on and the blame for that lies fair and square with the company.”

Richard Allan, deputy managing director at Northern, said: “Today at ACAS talks, Northern went in to the meeting with an open mind and made it clear we wish to continue discussions and all options will be considered that involve the deployment of two members of staff on Northern services.

“Any customer who needs help with access, personal security, information, ticketing and so on will have a member of staff, in addition to the driver, on-board trains to help them.

“On behalf of customers and stakeholders, and in the spirit of working together, Northern would welcome RMT postponing its planned industrial action. We look forward to further talks at ACAS.”