Concert-goers, Christmas shoppers and rugby fans warned ahead of train strikes

Train strikes affecting two of the country’s biggest rail operators will cause disruption for travellers heading to several high-profile events on Saturday.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on South Western Railway (SWR) and Arriva Rail North (Northern) will mount picket lines outside stations in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Rugby fans going to the England v Japan game at Twickenham will be caught up in the disruption, while those heading to Manchester’s famous Christmas markets may also be impacted.

Northern said only 30% of its services would run, with no late trains after several concerts in the North West, including the Jess Glynne concert at the Manchester Arena, Rick Astley at the Echo Arena in Liverpool and the Courteeners gig at the First Direct Arena in Leeds.

Both companies will lay on bus replacements on parts of their network.

RMT general Secretary Mick Cash said: “It is a national scandal that while other train operators have been prepared to engage seriously with RMT on the crucial issue of a guaranteed second safety-critical member of staff on their services, ARN and SWR have dragged their heels and made a mockery of the talks process to the point now where they refuse point-blank to engage in any meaningful negotiations at all.

“It is crystal clear that the axing of guards is a cash-driven exercise aimed at shoring up profits on these rail franchises regardless of the public consequences.

“The political cheerleader of this whole dangerous and bankrupt policy – the specialist in failure, Chris Grayling – is reported this morning to be on the point of doing a bunk, raising the serious question… who is now at the controls of transport policy in Britain?

“It’s time for both these companies to get out of the bunker and start talking seriously and positively with the union on the issue of the guard guarantee instead of gambling with public safety as they pump up their shareholder returns.

“We thank the public for their continuing support and understanding that these disputes are all about safety and passenger service on Britain’s violent and dangerous railways.”