Railway workers to strike on three days as row over role of guards deadlocked

Hopes of averting some of the rail strikes set to cause disruption to services next week have collapsed, leaving the bitter dispute over the role of guards deadlocked.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will walk out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on South Western Railway, Arriva Rail North (Northern), Merseyrail and Greater Anglia, and on Monday on Southern.

Talks have been held between the union and Arriva, but they ended without any breakthrough.

The company said it will run around 1,350 services on strike days, more than half its normal timetable, with most running between 7am and 7pm.

Trains are expected to be extremely busy, said the company, adding that passengers should allow more time for journeys.

The RMT said it was prepared to discuss operational models already established in Scotland and Wales but accused Arriva of refusing "point blank" to enter into serious negotiations.

General secretary Mick Cash said: "Our members are angry and frustrated that yet again a genuine opportunity to make progress in talks has been kicked into touch by the pig-headed and intransigent attitude of Arriva Rail North who simply want their staff to surrender to their demands to axe guards from half their trains regardless of the safety consequences.

"As a result of the Arriva Rail North attitude the action goes ahead in defence of rail safety, access and security and the public will understand that we are fighting in the interests of rail passengers across the region."

Richard Allan, Arriva Rail North's deputy managing director, said the company was committed to investing in new and updated trains, better stations and faster journeys.

"During talks, Northern again offered to guarantee jobs and pay for conductors for the rest of our franchise to 2025 if we can reach agreement with RMT.

"The Government has also recently written to the union, guaranteeing employment for conductors beyond 2025 if RMT ends its dispute.

"Northern has asked RMT to hold a fresh ballot of conductors to give them a voice, 10 months after RMT started its strike action.

"Conductors at other train companies will get a fresh vote every six months because RMT's disputes at those companies started under new legislation.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash
'The public will understand that we are fighting in the interests of rail passengers across the region,' says RMT general secretary Mick Cash (Nick Ansell/PA)

"Northern is concentrating on running as many services as possible for customers on the next RMT strike days."

Talks were also held between the union and SWR, with no news of any breakthrough.

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