Strikes set to add to rail chaos

Sunday Sun - - News - SEAN SEDDON sean.seddon@reach­plc.com

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.”

CLAIRE MCKIE

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