Train companies hit by fresh strikes in long-running guards' dispute


Workers at two rail companies will stage fresh strikes on Saturday in the long-running disputes over the role of guards.

Services on Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North (Northern) will be disrupted by the 24-hour walkout by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The union said attempts to resolve the disputes had been "kicked back in our faces", pledging to press ahead with industrial action.

RMT members on Southern Railway will strike on March 12 in a similar dispute, which has been raging for almost two years.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "No-one should be in any doubt - these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.

"It is, frankly, ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.

"Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip off the British passenger with eye-watering fare increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.

"If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first then it's good enough for the rest of the UK."

Merseyrail, which has reduced its services because of the severe weather, urged passengers to check before they travel on Saturday because of the strike - the 16th since the row started.

The company said it planned to run most services every 30 minutes from around 7am to 7pm, with a two-hour break in the middle of the day.

There will be no services on some lines around Liverpool and Chester.

Andy Heath, managing director of Merseyrail, said: "Once again we would like to apologise to passengers for having to endure yet another day of industrial action.

"We are running as many services as possible to keep the city region moving and we will do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum."

Northern said timetables will be "significantly amended", with around 44% of usual services running. The strike will coincide with engineering work in Manchester and Blackpool.

Most services will run between 7am and 7pm, with trains expected to be extremely busy.

Sharon Keith, regional director of Northern, said: "We have planned carefully to provide the best possible rail and rail replacement services for our customers.

"Anyone who is planning to travel should plan ahead carefully and allow extra time for any journeys."