Commuters face misery on trains as RMT union plans strike against Arriva Rail North

By Abigail Morrell

RAIL users could face disruption after RMT union members voted by a huge majority for strike action against Arriva Rail North.

The rail union confirmed that guards and driver members are preparing to strike on Monday, March 13, after the rail company refused to assure the future roles of guards on its services.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This dispute is all about putting public safety before private profit. The company now has the best part of two weeks to sit down with us, address the core issues at the heart of this dispute and negotiate a settlement before the action commences.

“The union’s position on Driver Only Operation (DOO) is perfectly clear. We will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.

“We have repeatedly asked Arriva Rail North whether they were prepared to guarantee a second person on all passenger services operated by the company.”

The union says the role of guards is crucial in helping trains leave platforms safely and during emergency evacuations.

And it has highlighted Tuesday’s incident at Liverpool Lime Street station – when hundreds of passengers were trapped in tunnels after a wall collapsed – as an example of the importance of having trained guards on board.

Mr Cash said: “It is clear that the response of railway staff and emergency services was magnificent and that we are very lucky indeed that this was not a major disaster.

“But let us be crystal clear. If Arriva Rail North’s plans had already been in place, the two Northern services would not have had guards aboard, with potentially disastrous consequences.

“Without the guards to keep passengers calm and lead safe evacuations we would have had the potentially lethal prospect of passengers de-training themselves in cold, dark tunnels and stumbling towards tons of debris and damaged 25,000-volt overhead power lines.

“This is yet another graphic illustration of why attempts to impose or extend driver-only operation amount to a fundamental attack on safety for passengers and rail workers alike, and why RMT will use every means available to us to resist them.”

“This is yet another graphic illustration of why attempts to impose or extend driver-only operation amount to a fundamental attack on safety for passengers and rail workers alike, and why RMT will use every means available to us to resist them.”

Northern, which runs Arriva Rail North, said if strike action goes ahead, its customers could be reassured that it had plans in place, with a “revised service” to keep them moving.

A spokesman said: “As our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages, it is a shame that RMT has announced strike action for Monday 13 March.

“Our aim is to reach a constructive resolution and we urge RMT to continue the talks we have already started.”

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