Wave of rail strikes to hit services across England again

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A fresh wave of rail strikes will hit services across the country on Thursday, with disputes over the role of guards and driver-only trains becoming increasingly bitter.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Greater Anglia will stage a second 24-hour walkout of the week, with no sign of the deadlock being broken.

Strikes on UK rail network
(PA graphic)

Workers on the new South Western Railway franchise are set to join the strikes after voting heavily in favour of industrial action over a similar row.

The RMT has accused Southern of "bullying" tactics, claiming the company has threatened to target the pensions of those taking strike action as well as taking "further sanctions".

General secretary Mick Cash said: "Southern Rail, a company that earlier this year encouraged passengers to 'strike back' against front line staff, has once again dredged the depths of industrial relations with this outrageous threat to their staff pensions that is pure bare-faced bullying.

"If Southern seriously think that RMT will lift the campaign for safe and accessible rail services for all on the basis of threats and intimidation then they should think again.

"Instead of resorting to the gutter tactics of the playground bully Southern should start acting responsibly and should get round the table with the trade union for serious talks aimed at resolving the longest running industrial dispute in Britain."

A Southern spokesman said: "We reject the latest claims made by the RMT. Today will be the 36th day of RMT strikes and we, like our passengers and the vast majority of our colleagues, simply want an end to this unnecessary dispute."

Greater Anglia is planning to run a full service on Thursday and Southern said there will be a normal service on most of its routes.

Arriva Rail North aims to run around 1,200 services across the North - 46% of its normal timetable - on both days between 7am and 7pm.

Most Merseyrail services will run between 7am and 7pm, with a break during the middle of the day, and some stations will be closed.

The RMT named 330 unstaffed Arriva Rail North (Northern) stations which it fears will become "crime hot spots and no-go areas" for vulnerable and disabled passengers if plans by the company go ahead.

The company is planning for at least 50% of services to have no guards, with many lines and routes completely unstaffed, said the union, warning that removing guards from trains travelling through hundreds of unstaffed stations will result in a "cocktail of dangers".

Mr Cash said: "No staff on many routes and lines, no staff on the stations and no staff on the trains travelling through these stations means there will be a cocktail of dangers at the locations we have identified which will increasingly become no-go areas for vulnerable passengers and new crime hot spots.

"At the same time our isolated drivers will be on their own, increasingly exposed to anti-social and violent behaviour."

? Industrial action planned on 5 October will affect our services. Please check before you travel https://t.co/CqAL3ZKZ4h ? pic.twitter.com/WGn6oTRZGd

-- Northern (@northernassist) October 4, 2017

Richard Allan, Northern's deputy managing director, said: "Our plans will see staff more visible and available than ever before on trains and stations.

"We want to keep a second person on many of our services and, at some locations, we may choose to staff the station to give better customer support.

"We are investing in people and systems to make the railway even safer; for example we now have 55 travel safe officers who work on trains and stations to help prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour.

"Any changes we want to make to services or our stations are fully risk assessed, widely discussed, and approved in accordance with relevant legislation."