Looming RMT strike forces Northern to run just 40% of services

Northern has announced that it will only be able to run 40% of its usual schedule when union RMT go on strike on 13 March – operating approximately 980 services across “many, but not all” of its routes in the north.

The operator warned passengers to leave plenty of time for journeys and to consider if their journey was necessary before travelling, in anticipation of services being very busy as the TOC battles with staff shortages.

Northern has also explained that more than 100 trained managers and colleagues will be carrying out conductor duties to keep services moving as regularly and quickly as possible.

Richard Allan, the TOC’s deputy managing director, said: “We have focused our planning efforts on maintaining a train service on our busier routes between 7am and 7pm, and are looking to provide replacement bus services on some routes where trains won’t run.

“We are acutely aware of the important role that Northern plays in keeping the north of England moving. We would ask for your patience on Monday, and ask all our customers to individually take time to consider whether your journey is necessary and if its please plan carefully.”

Passengers travelling during the strike day have also been advised that they can find more information about altered services on their industrial action page.

This strike action is the latest development in the long-running clash between operators and RMT around driver-only operated (DOO) and driver-controlled operation (DCO) trains, which would see guards taken off trains – a measure that the union argues will compromise passenger safety.

RMT has now described Northern’s updated schedule as a “scab timetable” which will create issues for passenger safety and should push the operator to resume talks to end their dispute.

The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Instead of winging it with this high-risk, scab timetable Arriva Rail North should be round the table with RMT working on a safe and sustainable future for their services.

“This dispute, and the campaign of industrial action we have announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously, stuck to their earlier commitments and had put passenger safety before profit.

“The union remains available for genuine and meaningful talks and we expect the company to take up that offer as a matter of urgency.”

Merseyrail has also announced that reduced services will run every half hour from 07:00 – 19:00, with all services being six-car trains, and advised passengers to check its website for further information on the day.

Southern, which will face strikes on the same day, also announced that most services will operate to the normal timetable, but added that passengers should exercise caution and check before they travel for updates.

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Tom   08/03/2017 at 17:12

Very poor emergency timetable. It would seem Northern using managers to cover have decided to stick to managers hours. Running trains during the day and winding them down at the start of the rush hour. Perhaps the RMT are right. This clearly is a company with shoddy management who clearly have no sense of planning.

Martin T   09/03/2017 at 15:29

The article doesn't make it clear but as far as I know Northern have offered the conductors guaranteed employment and guaranteed pay rises - something that 95% off employees in this country do not have and would never expect to have. But the RMT have to fight to the death otherwise Mike Cash is out of a job.

Mike   09/03/2017 at 20:59

Martin T - Northern have offered guaranteed employment but not guaranteed pay rises. However the principal line of the dispute is safety - the network has a large number of unstaffed stations, rural stations, stations which have low platforms and a good number where the platforms are too short for the trains. There are too many risks to the public in both safety and service, in the situation of having only an OBS or even no second member of staff.

Michael   10/03/2017 at 06:36

The DMT seem determined to ill-advisedly encourage members to cling to what are, inevitably, purely historic practices. Modern imaging systems have proved that DOO & DCO are both practicable & safe. Retaining full employment for members and optimal customer support on trains should be the focus. Not disrupting our services & alienating friends of the railway. Giving the name Michael a dubious overhead Mr Cash.

Jerry Alderson   10/03/2017 at 15:46

There is a very strong case for DCO+0 on frequently-stopping metro services where every station has platform staff from first to last. In the 1980s British Rail introduced DCO+0 on many commuter routes including ones that had long distances between stops and also called at completely unstaffed stations. My journeys on Great Northern are a case in point. We've had 30 years of that. Having worked elsewhere in the EU I know that DCO+0 works very well, just as it does in Britain. Apart from the double-deck trains and the cross-border trains 100% of the railway around Vienna (where services stretch out into the states of Upper and Lower Austria) is DCO+0. As far as I know Northern will have DCO+1 on 50% of its services and retain CDO on the other 50%. Providing that the OBS can give the same cover the same passenger service needs as a conductor (e.g. deploy ramps) then I have no concerns about DCO with an OBS. The RMT is playing the safety card. However, each year there are currently 3.2 billion crossings of the platform-train interface of which something like 60% are on DCO+n trains. There are exceedingly few incidents. The stats just do not help the RMT's case.

Dan   13/03/2017 at 13:22

Mike - I have lived in other countries where the rail operations are DCO+0 and the train called at unmanned stations. Guess what.... It worked absolutely fine with no safety concerns. If you really think this is just about safety you are closing your eyes on the bigger picture. As Richard Westcott (BBC transport correspondent) puts it very clearly: Handing all the safety jobs to the driver means you don't HAVE to have two people on every train before it can leave the station. That would shrink the power of the RMT, because more trains would be able to run if their guards went on strike in the future. This is the real fear of Mike Cash, that he will be out of a job.

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