More strikes in rail guards' dispute

Rail services will be disrupted on Tuesday by a fresh strike in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on Arriva Rail North (Northern) will walk out for 24 hours, and again on Thursday and Saturday.

Labour will seek to force a vote of no confidence in Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in the Commons on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the union announced it was suspending a planned three-day strike on South Western Railway from Thursday after progress in talks with the company over the same dispute.

Northern said it would concentrate on running as many services as possible between 7am and 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday, while services will start later and finish earlier than usual on Saturday.

Regional director for Northern Sharon Keith said: "On each day of the strike action we will be running fewer services and expect those services we do operate to be extremely busy.

"It is, therefore, vital that anyone thinking of travelling with Northern on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday plans their journey carefully."

The RMT has called for last-ditch talks to resolve the dispute, and complained that taxpayers and passengers, and not Northern, were footing the bill for the cost of strike action.

A clause in the franchise agreement signed between Northern Rail and the Government says Mr Grayling can reimburse Northern Rail for "net losses arising from industrial action", said the union.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It's another day and another rail scandal under Chris Grayling.

"It is utterly shocking that he is using Northern taxpayers and passengers' money to reimburse German state-owned Northern Rail for money they have lost as a result of strike.

"By bankrolling Northern in this way, Chris Grayling is seeking to prolong this dispute and break the workforce.

"It will not work and our members remain as solid as ever in the fight to ensure safety and access for all on railways across the North.

"Instead of propping up a foreign-owned company in its fight against British workers, Chris Grayling should be allowing meaningful discussions to take place which would allow passengers to keep a second member of staff on every train."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The only people hitting taxpayers in this pointless and unnecessary strike action is the RMT.

"This dispute is not about jobs or safety. Guards have been guaranteed their jobs and the independent rail regulator has ruled that driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for 30 years, are safe."

Speaking ahead of the Commons debate, Andy McDonald, shadow transport secretary said: "The crisis facing our railways is a national scandal, and the person ultimately responsible must be held to account.

"Chris Grayling has failed to fulfil his basic duty to manage our railways, and failed to take responsibility for the chaos and disruption that has affected thousands of commuters across the North of England.

"While officials within rail franchises have resigned and forgone bonuses, the Secretary of State has continued to pass the buck."