Fresh disruption for rail passengers as more guards strikes called
Rail passengers face fresh disruption after more strikes were called in the long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on Arriva Rail North, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway (SWR) will strike for 24 hours on May 9 and again on May 11, 14, 16 and 18 just on SWR.
The announcement was made at a protest in Westminster to mark the second anniversary of the dispute, which started on Southern Railway.
No fresh walkouts were announced on Southern or on Merseyrail, where talks are being held to try to break the deadlocked row.
Hundreds of RMT members, disability campaigners and passengers joined the Westminster demonstration, which was followed by a lobby of MPs.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Yet again the intransigence of private rail companies operating in England over the key issue of the guard guarantee means that we have no option but to announce further strike action in the separate disputes on Arriva Rail North, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway.
"With RMT members protesting outside Parliament today we are drawing attention to the ludicrous situation that means we are able to reach agreements in Wales and Scotland on the guard guarantee but not on a raft of key franchises in England.
"If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to put rail safety first then it should be good enough for the rest of Britain.
"We have long detected the dead hand of the Government interfering to stop us reaching negotiated settlements in the current disputes and it's about time Chris Grayling stopped playing politics with passenger safety and started taking the issue seriously."
The RMT has criticised Mr Grayling for not convening tripartite talks to try to resolve the dispute.
Mr Cash added: "I am flabbergasted that after two years, the Transport Secretary has not sat down with us and the train companies to try to find a way of resolving this.
"Our members are resolute and determined to carry on because they believe in the cause of retaining guards on trains in the interests of safety. Passengers and disability groups agree with us."
Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: "We are very disappointed that the RMT has announced a further strike on Wednesday May 9. We'd like to reassure customers that we will be running a full service on this day, using our contingency conductors.
"In recent weeks, we have had some constructive talks with RMT union officials and offered a proposal which we hoped would resolve this issue. Unfortunately, the RMT has rejected it.
"Our position remains the same: We highly value our conductors, we're keeping them on our trains, but we want them to concentrate on customer service rather than opening and closing doors.
"We will continue to talk to the RMT to try to find an acceptable solution."