Sunderland and Hartlepool passengers face Christmas rail strike misery
Sunderland and Hartlepool rail passengers will contend with fresh rail strike misery in the run up to Christmas.
Workers at Arriva Rail North, which runs Northern services along the North-East coast, are to take industrial action on five additional Saturdays later this month and in December.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out for 24 hours on November 17 and 24 and on December 1, 8 and 15.
The new action will take the number of strikes against the company to 43 since the bitter row over the role of guards on trains flared.
Industrial action had already been announced for the next two Saturdays.
Stations affected along the Newcastle-Middlesbrough route include Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham.
The row is over the future role of guards with the union fearing Arriva's proposed introduction of more driver only trains will endanger staff and passengers.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT continues to make every effort to get serious and meaningful talks going with Northern.
"But the company are not interested and would prefer to continue to bury their heads in the sand regardless of the impact on the travelling public."
Arriva disputes this and has repeatedly called for the RMT to return to the table for talks chaired by conciliation service Acas.
Northern managing director David Brown said: "RMT's strikes are causing more and more unnecessary difficulty and inconvenience for our customers and significant loss of earnings for their members.
"Our offer to resume Acas talks remains open and we will meet the union anytime, anywhere. We challenge the union to suspend their action and come back to the table."
The weekend strikes do not affect Grand Central trains stopping at Sunderland and Hartlepool.
Only five Northern trains will run in either direction this Saturday with full details of the company's emergency timetable available at https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/strike