More rail misery for Sunderland and Hartlepool passengers after fresh strikes called

Rail passengers face more strike misery after a new round of weekend strikes were called.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 18 January, 2019, 12:23

Travellers using Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations now face reduced timetables on Northern services on the first three Saturdays of February.

The union action on February 2, 9 and 16 is in addition to strikes already planned by the Rail Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) for the remaining Saturdays in January.

The ongoing disruption centres on fears that Northern's owners, Arriva Rail North (ARN), wants to introduce more driver-only trains as part of its ongoing modernisation programme.

Attempts to resolve the dispute - now in its third calendar year - have so far failed with talks brokered by arbitration service Acas quickly breaking down late last year.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “German-owned Northern have made it perfectly clear in emails to staff that they want to run trains without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access ‎to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately."

He added: “We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union remains ready for genuine and serious talks.”

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ARN insists that jobs will be protected for guards will be protected until the end of Northern's current franchise in 2025,

Northern managing director David Brown said: "More than 50% of all rail journeys in the UK are made on driver-controlled trains, and recently the Department for Transport and Transport for the North publicly confirmed that a second person, in addition to the driver, would be retained on Northern services.

"This second person will provide customer service, including meeting customer needs on accessibility, safety, security, ticketing and information.

"Therefore, there is no reason for the RMT to continue its disruptive and economically damaging strikes, but despite this, the RMT continues with its strike action."

This Saturday's strike - the 45th since the dispute flared in 2017 - will see Northern run eight trains in either direction along the Newcastle-Middlesbrough line.

The services are mainly between 9am-5pm and further details are available from https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/strikeor by telephoning 0800 200 6060.