HS2

13.03.17

Triple RMT strikes cause passenger disruption across UK rail network

Strikes across the nation’s railway today has caused disruption and difficulty for passengers, as RMT pressed ahead with its industrial action against rail operators.

The dispute, which has now dragged on for almost a year in parts of the network, centres around the union’s opposition to the proposed move to driver-only-operated (DOO) or driver-controlled operation (DCO) trains, which would see services be operated without a guard and could potentially, RMT claims, compromise passenger safety – although this has been widely disputed.

Today marks the latest in the union’s continued action as up to 2,000 drivers and guards working for Southern Rail, Merseyrail and Northern Rail go on strike, triggering travel problems across the country, with Northern only able to run around 40% of its regular service.

The strike has been met with strong words from the Rail Delivery Group, with Paul Plummer, its CEO, saying: “Passengers have every right to be angry and confused at this unnecessary strike.

“We have a growing railway with great opportunities for our people, and rail companies have offered to guarantee jobs and pay. We are introducing modern trains which passengers want and new technology which enables us to improve services without ever compromising on safety.

“Modernisation plans in the north of England are at an early stage and the companies involved want to work with staff and unions on those.”

But RMT has hit back at operators by confirming that the unions were standing strong and holding pickets across the country to make their message to rail bosses and the public clear.

Its general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “In the teeth of a relentless campaign of spin and intimidation from Southern Rail the RMT guards’ and drivers’ action continues to hold firm in the fight for rail safety nearly a year on‎.

“RMT members on Southern have shown incredible courage and resilience in the year-long battle to put passenger safety before private profits‎. They are a credit to their local communities and to the entire trade union movement.”

Cash concluded his statement by again urging Southern and parent company Govia Thameslink Railway to resume negotiations: “Instead of their usual barrage of distortions and misinformation it is about time Southern/GTR got out of the bunker and got back round the t‎able with the union in serious and meaningful talks.”

In a separate statement, the general secretary hailed the action against Northern and Merseyrail, which lost a court injunction to block today’s strike last week, as standing “absolutely rock solid”.

“Our pickets are out across the franchise and the response has been fantastic,” he added. “This action could have been avoided if Arriva hadn't back pedalled from earlier pledges to retain the guard. It is now down to the company to ‎get that pledge back on the table and engage with the union in talks over a safe and sustainable future built around the guarantee of a guard on the trains.”

Northern have also urged passengers that despite running a limited timetable, it was doing all it could to ensure services ran as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Paul Barnfield, regional director said: “By 12.30pm 448 trains had arrived at their destinations, helping customers get to work in major towns and cities across the North.  Our plan is working well and we have even been able to run a few more morning rush hour trains than originally planned.  

“We are now concentrating efforts on getting people home this evening” Barnfield said. “We urge everyone wanting to travel home today to think now about their return journey.”

He also warned that services on many routes will start to wind down from mid-afternoon onwards, and very few trains would be running after 5pm this evening.

“On behalf of Northern I would like to thank our customers for working with us today and altering their travel plans. I would also like to thank all of our people who have worked so hard to run our trains today.

“Keep an eye out on Northern’s social media feeds for any updates on our train services.”

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Comments

Dan   13/03/2017 at 15:48

Strike is not all about safety but more about Mike Cash trying to keep RMT as powerful as possible. Most likely so he can hold on to his £100k+ job funded by the payments of his hard working union members.

James Palma   13/03/2017 at 15:56

Sack all the guards. There we go. Problem solved.

Mark   13/03/2017 at 20:44

This is about the unions clinging onto power. Our railways need to modernise, and they are standing in the way.

Craig   14/03/2017 at 06:50

The strike is all about safety - the 35 or more rule book competencies that Guards have which allow them to act as a secondary safety device on a train in the event of Driver incapacity - including train evacuation, knowledge of signalling systems, routes, overhead lines etc. It's also about a guaranteed second member of staff on services to assist passengers, offer a sense of security and reassurance especially at a time of increasing anti social behaviour and security threats. There are also accessibility issues here for people with disabilities and mobility impairments who often depend on Guards to help and assist them. It's not about resisting modernisation - the new trains can and I understand will be configured for Guard operation (as well as DOO). Neither is it about customer service - how can it be if the company won't guarantee a second member of staff on trains to provide "customer service" - thousands of passengers, numerous local authorities and many MPs have signed up to oppose DOO - keep the Guard on the train and keep our trains SAFE, secure, accessible and passenger focussed. The RSSB the so-called independent safety body - infested with privateer railway managers - that says DOO is safe recently produced a DVD briefing for staff called red 43 about the dangers on DOO services - it's time the lies and misinformation were exposed and rail safety and passenger service was assured.

Dan   14/03/2017 at 08:50

Chris - I am just picking out one sentence: "It's also about a guaranteed second member of staff on services to assist passengers, offer a sense of security and reassurance especially at a time of increasing anti social behaviour and security threats." If the guard is there for a sense of security, why did Northern Rail have to hire all those bouncers to go on the train? Increasing staff level from Driver +1 to Driver +2? This strike has been called as the RMT wants to hold on to power, if you don't need a guard on the train and RMT call a strike the train can still run, leaving the RMT powerless. That and nothing else is what Mike Cash wants, power to keep hold of his easy six figure salary job.

Merseyferry   14/03/2017 at 15:55

I totally agree with Craig's statement 14.03.2017. I have worked on the railway all my life (I am 61 now) and a coach builder by trade, and have been in the engineering design side and engaging with the customer for 30 years. Old doors, new doors are not totally safe and having guards on the trains reassure passengers and gives them a sense of safety throughout travel. TOC's and Rosco's Maintenance checks are all scaled down due to government cost cutting especially on the legacy fleet, some doors are that corroded locking systems fail to operate on many occasions, which are not recorded but should by the incident reporting platform (NIR's). It's time as its been said before that the pulic should be made aware of what the RMT ans Aslef members are trying to get across and its time the TOC's came clean on reliability cost cutting measures. More new trains means more maintenance checks if this is allowed to happen, even now Hitachi have scaled down its intended staff recruitment on this.

Nickk   14/03/2017 at 21:25

Craig, your comments could be fair, but confidence is only gained if the guard can be seen - they really do need to be in the train proper, not hidden in the rear driving cab. This is what Southern would appear to want the second employee to do.

Billd   19/03/2017 at 10:09

Yes, The travelling public want a second person on trains for safety but not as described by Mr Cash and his followers. They are wanted to patrol the trains to discourage anti-social behaviour, to offer travel advice and interact with passengers. The public are not bothered about someone sat in the rear cab reading a newspaper and only venturing into the public eye at stations. There's a limit to the disruption that will be tolerated before guards find any sympathy they have turning to hostility at which point, they will be seen to be superfluous. Then their jobs will have gone and the second person on trains will be for revenue protection and public relations only.

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