Rail workers in five companies to strike on three days over role of guards

Updated: 

Workers in five rail companies are staging a fresh wave of strikes in the bitter disputes over the role of guards, causing disruption to services in the first full week back to work after the festive break.

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

Talks were held between the union and SWR and Arriva, but they ended without any breakthrough to the long-running row over staffing, driver-only operation and guards.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

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

SWR plans to run more than 70% of its normal weekday service of 1,700 trains, although there will be rail replacement buses and arrangements to have tickets accepted on other train companies.

Greater Anglia said it planned to run a normal service with no alterations.

Merseyrail will run a reduced service, mostly between 7am and 7pm, with a break during the middle of the day and no trains on the Kirby, Ellesmere Port or Hunts Cross lines.

Arriva Buses will accept Merseyrail tickets on all three strike days covering the Northern and Wirral lines.

Southern, which is facing its 39th RMT strike on Monday, said it planned to run a normal service on most routes, but advised passengers to check for any last-minute changes before they travel.

Angie Doll, passenger services director for Southern Railway, said: "The RMT's action is especially regrettable as the leadership announced this strike just hours after we had invited them for talks in a bid to end the dispute.

"The RMT leadership opposes changes that we made a year ago to improve passenger services. No-one has lost their job. We have made four offers to the RMT to resolve their dispute but they have rejected every one of them without even putting them to their members for a vote."

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces and we are left with no option but to press ahead with the action."

Northern picket line at Leeds early this morning for strike over safety and driver only operation pic.twitter.com/vllgMdXzQa

-- RMT (@RMTunion) January 8, 2018

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Despite the best efforts of the RMT to cause misery for passengers, the train companies will keep passengers moving with the majority of services running as planned.

"This dispute is not about safety and no-one is losing their job - employees have been guaranteed jobs and salaries for several years.

Commuters ride a crowded South Western Railway train on the Portsmouth to London Waterloo line
Commuters ride a crowded South Western Railway train on the Portsmouth to London Waterloo line (Carey Tompsett/PA)

"At Southern Rail, where these changes have already been introduced, there are now more staff dedicated to working on trains than previously.

"The independent rail regulator has stated unequivocally that driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for more than thirty years, are safe."