Strikes set to add to rail chaos
Reporter WEEKEND strike action is to hit some North East rail services over a five-week period.
Northern Rail services will be affected by a string of fresh industrial action announced by the RMT rail union.
The move is part of a longstanding opposition to the operator’s decision to introduce driver-only trains.
Union bosses say operating trains without a guard will make journeys less safe, while Northern say the system is used widely in other countries.
The RMT will launch 24-hour strikes on five Saturdays: November 17, 24 and December 1, 8 and 15.
If the full schedule of strikes goes ahead, December 15 will mark the 42nd day of industrial action. There was also a strike yesterday and there is one planned for next Saturday too.
Northern are responsible for a number of North East routes, including the Newcastle to Carlisle Tyne Valley line and services to County Durham and Teesside.
Now a fresh war of words has broken out between the two parties.
“German-owned Northern Rail want to run nearly half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access to ser- RMT general secretary Mick Cash outside Newcastle Central Station vices and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately,” RMT general secretary Mick Cash said.
“RMT has secured agreements on other English franchises that enshrine the guard guarantee. Similar agreements have also been reached in Wales and Scotland.
“Arriva Rail North need to do the right thing and come to an agreement that secures a guard on their trains.
“We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union remains ready for genuine and serious talks.”
David Brown, managing director of Northern, hit back, saying: “In a recent letter to the RMT General Secretary, I called on the union to reconvene talks.
“RMT will need to demonstrate that they are serious about making progress by suspending industrial action and agreeing to discuss the options that they themselves put forward during the first ACAS talks in September. To date, we have not received a response to this proposal.
“Instead, they have responded by cynically targeting the weekends in November and December to hit Christmas markets and important seasonal events.
He added: “RMT’s strikes are causing more and more unnecessary difficulty and inconvenience for our customers and significant loss of earnings for their members.
“Our offer to resume ACAS talks remains open and we will meet the union anytime, anywhere. We challenge the union to suspend their action and come back to the table.”