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29.11.18

After almost a year of strikes, DfT commits to keeping second person on-board Northern trains

The DfT and Transport for the North (TfN) have committed to keep a second person on-board Northern trains in a momentous decision that could bring an end to strike action and settle the long-running dispute between the TOC and the RMT union.

TfN yesterday declared it did not support removing the second person from trains and urged Northern and the RMT to get back around the negotiating table, arguing that passengers’ confidence in the north’s railway must be restored.

In response, the RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said his union awaited any new proposals from the operator “which maintain for the travelling public the same level of safety, security and access that they enjoy at the moment based on the guarantee of the guard on every train.”

Today, the government and TfN, which jointly manage the franchise through the Rail North Partnership, committed to retaining a second person across services.

Northern welcomed the commitment, saying there was “no reason for the RMT to continue its disruptive and economically damaging strikes in the build up to Christmas.”

Managing director at Northern, David Brown, added: “I look forward to RMT suspending their December strikes, and accepting my long-standing invitation to get back round the table at ACAS to resolve their dispute.”

TfN said yesterday it was willing to consider all options that could lead to an agreement after last Saturday marked the 37th day of strike action by RMT members in the bitter dispute over the introduction of driver-only operated trains (DOO).

The subnational transport body said it had “acted in the interest of the north’s passengers” in confirming its support for opposition to DOO trains on Northern’s services, and now, following the government’s commitment, the plans will not go ahead.

TfN’s support for RMT’s opposition to DOO trains on Norther rail services follows support from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for the campaign.

Northern confirmed that any remaining concerns about safety, security and accessibility have now been answered, adding: “There will be a second person on-board to meet customers’ needs in those areas, and in the other vital customer service they do.”

The row has been a turbulent one, with union heads clashing with safety organisation RSSB as to whether a second guard is truly critical to passenger safety.

TfN’s chief executive Barry White said: “Businesses across the north’s villages, towns and cities are reaching their busiest time of year. But this is being hampered by uncertainty and disruption on the rail network. People are choosing to make other plans as a result.

“It’s apparent that we need to restore confidence in the North’s railways. There needs to be a way forward. We urge both parties to begin meaningful discussions as soon as possible.”

Image credit -  Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

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