Train travellers in Sunderland and Hartlepool face first of two strike days this week

The RMT is holding the first of two days of industrial action this week.
The RMT is holding the first of two days of industrial action this week.

Travellers are facing the first of two rail strikes this week as a long-running dispute over passenger and staff safety continues.

Northern services stopping at Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations are only operating between 7am-7pm on Monday and Thursday.

This follows the latest round of industrial action called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union over plans by Northern's parent company, Arriva Rail North (ARN), to introduce more driver-only trains.

Union general Secretary Mick Cash said on Monday morning: "RMT members are standing firm and united again this morning on picket lines across Arriva Rail North as the fight for rail safety the length and breadth of the franchise enters its second year.

"It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a battle to put public safety before private profit.

"German-owned Northern Rail want to run half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access ‎to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately.

"RMT has agreed arrangements in Wales and Scotland that enshrine the guard guarantee.

If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to have safe rail services it should be good enough for the rest of Britain. ARN should get out of the bunker and start talking."

Northern has pledged to run more than 50 per cent of its services on both strike days.

Deputy managing director Richard Allan said: "Our modernisation plans are well underway with almost £500m of new trains under construction, 90 refurbished trains in service, £7m spent so far on improving our stations, extra services from May and 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 if RMT ends strike action.

“RMT has also rejected our request to hold a fresh ballot despite one in five conductors having started in the role since the RMT dispute started, and have therefore never had a vote."

Full details of Northern's emergency timetable for both days are available here.