Sunderland and Hartlepool rail passengers face more Saturday strike misery

Sunderland and Hartlepool rail passengers face more disruption on Saturday.
Sunderland and Hartlepool rail passengers face more disruption on Saturday.

Rail passengers face another Saturday of strike action following the collapse of talks to end a long-running safety dispute.

Only eight Northern trains will operate along the Newcastle-Middlesbrough line between Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations in an emergency timetable.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is holding a one-day strike for the 16th consecutive Saturday after talks with the operator's parent company, Arrive Rail North, were quickly abandoned earlier this week.

The dispute revolves around the future role of guards on Northern's new fleet of trains.

Union leaders fear that the absence of a second person on board services will pose safety risks for both staff and passengers.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It has only been the resilience of RMT members and our supporters from the ‎travelling public, whose solidarity and determination have been instrumental in getting the focus of the dispute back on to the guarantee of a second person on the train.

"It is deeply disappointing that the company have failed this week to meet the union’s call to move the issues forwards. As a result the action continues as planned. ”

ARN has insisted that all guards will have jobs until the end of the current Northern franchise in 2025.

David Brown, the managing director at Northern, said: “By the end of December, we will have had 19 consecutive Saturdays of RMT strike action.

"This targeted action disrupts our customers’ lives. But, as we enter a vital period for businesses, it also damages the economic wellbeing of the north of England.

“We have fantastic colleagues who have supported customers by keeping our trains running on each of the RMT strike days.

"We are aiming to keep as many people moving as possible and ensuring customers can still travel into the biggest towns and cities for the big seasonal events including Christmas markets – but with very few services running after 5pm.

“We expect all of our services, and those of other operators, to be extremely busy and are calling on our customers to plan their travel carefully for the coming weekend, check the new timetables well in advance, and make sure they do not rely on the last trains home.”

Grand Central services using Sunderland Hartlepool stations are not affected by the dispute.

The majority of Northern's services along the Durham coast operate between 9am-5pm. For further details ring 0800 200 6060 or go to https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/strike