Rail strike to hit passengers tomorrow as guards take action for the 39th day

Northern Rail services will be affected by the strike.
Northern Rail services will be affected by the strike.

Train passengers will go on strike over their concerns about the future of guards' jobs.

Rail union RMT has said that a 39th day of strike action over the threat to guards on Northern Rail trains will "go ahead exactly as planned" tomorrow after it said the company "wrecked a golden opportunity to make progress in talks aimed at resolving the long-running dispute" earlier this week.

RMT said it is “angry, frustrated and determined to carry on the fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all” after ACAS talks collapsed on Tuesday.

It said the company made it clear they would not be addressing the union's clearly set out principles around the guarantee of a second safety-critical person on the train, with that member of staff having the full suite of competencies including at the crucial platform/train interface.

In addition, the unions says it also became clear during the aborted talks that despite grandstanding by the Government and the Department for Transport no funding package is in place to underpin any commitment to a second member of staff on Northern Rail services making a mockery of statements issued only last week.

The action this weekend comes after the British Transport Police issued figures in the run up to the Christmas party season showing that violent incidents during the festive period have more than doubled over the past two years – exposing again the nonsense of getting rid of the safety-critical guard on Britain’s increasingly violent railways.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is angry, frustrated and determined to carry on the fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all after Northern Rail squandered a golden opportunity to make progress towards a settlement in ACAS talks this week.

“Frankly, it is ludicrous that no thought has been given to funding the so-called “commitments” broadcast by the Department for Transport in relation to this dispute and instead of laying into the union at Prime Ministers Questions Theresa May should be forcing her ministers and the franchise holders to start talking seriously about the actual practicalities at the delivery end of the service.

"It has only been the resilience of RMT members and our supporters from the ‎travelling public, whose solidarity and determination have been instrumental in getting the focus of the dispute back on to the guarantee of a second person on the train.

"It is deeply disappointing that the company have failed this week to meet the union’s call to move the issues forwards.

"As a result the action continues as planned."

The strike action is also due to take place on the next three Saturdays beyond tomorrow.

Northern says it will still run around 700 services during each Saturday, but with very few after 5pm.

Those Northern services that do run, and other operators’ services, are expected to be extremely busy as the build-up to Christmas continues.

Northern has called for RMT to suspend its damaging December strike action and return to talks at ACAS. RMT has made agreements with other train operators that it refuses to discuss with Northern.

Richard Allan, Deputy Managing Director at Northern, said: “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.”

David Brown, managing director at Northern, added: “By the end of December, we will have had 19 consecutive Saturdays of RMT strike action.

"This targeted action disrupts our customers’ lives.

"But, as we enter a vital period for businesses, it also damages the economic wellbeing of the north of England.

“We have fantastic colleagues who have supported customers by keeping our trains running on each of the RMT strike days. We are aiming to keep as many people moving as possible and ensuring customers can still travel into the biggest towns and cities for the big seasonal events including Christmas markets – but with very few services running after 5pm.

“We expect all of our services, and those of other operators, to be extremely busy and are calling on our customers to plan their travel carefully for the coming weekend, check the new timetables well in advance, and make sure they do not rely on the last trains home.”

As well as Christmas markets, there are a number of significant sporting fixtures and other events this weekend and customers are asked to check timetables and plan carefully

These include Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers, with no service between Preston and Blackburn.

Hourly service to and from Clitheroe - last train from Blackburn to Clitheroe is at 5.15pm.

Hourly rail replacement bus service between Blackburn and Colne - last bus from Blackburn to Colne is at 7.10pm

It has also highlighted the Madness gig at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle.

It added that unfortunately, on some routes this weekend, it is not able to run services, while others have a limited service.

On those routes where we are able to operate trains, we expect all services to be extremely busy.

We also have replacement bus services available on some routes where trains aren’t running.

A spokesman added: "Our priority during a strike is to keep you informed and on the move.

"At any time you can keep up-to-date by following us on social media: @northernassist or by going to National Rail Enquiries for train running information."