Call for end to strikes as rail passengers face more disruption before Christmas

Rail passengers in the north of England could face “significant disruption” in the run up to Christmas as part of the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on Arriva Rail North (Northern) have carried out 35 days of strike action.

Further strikes are due to take place this Saturday and for the following four Saturdays – with Transport for the North calling on both parties to get back around the negotiating table.

The group backs the RMT’s view on maintaining a second member of staff on trains and is willing to “consider all options that could lead to an agreement”.

Transport for the North’s chief executive Barry White said: “Businesses across the North’s villages, towns and cities are reaching their busiest time of year. Christmas markets are transforming our bustling centres and people want to enjoy all our economies have to offer.

“But this is being hampered by uncertainty and disruption on the rail network. People are choosing to make other plans as a result.

“It’s apparent that we need to restore confidence in the North’s railways. There needs to be a way forward. Now more than ever, passengers in the North need reliability as they go about what is a busy time for everyone. We urge both parties to begin meaningful discussions as soon as possible.”

The RMT has previously said private train companies are “gambling” with their passengers well-being.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the union, has said: “As violence and sexual assaults escalate on Britain’s dangerous railways, this is no time to be taking risks in the interest of profit.

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

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Today the Rail Minister wrote to the Rail North Partnership (through which Transport for the North and the Department co-manage the Northern franchise), to reiterate the Government’s commitment to having on board Northern trains a second person whose role is focused on looking after passenger needs.

“He also committed Government to playing its part in funding this. We are pleased that Transport for the North agrees.

“We believe this commitment should ensure that the needless RMT industrial action on Northern comes to an end.”