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Merseyrail reveals reduced Grand National timetable to cope with RMT strike

Merseyrail has today released its modified timetable for RMT’s strike on Grand National Day on Saturday 8 April, saying that there will be very few trains running on the network besides services going to and from the racecourse at Aintree.  

The operator says it is aiming to deliver a 7.5-minute service to operate at key times, but warned passengers on other parts of the network to expect major delays as resources were being directed towards making sure a safe and quick service was run to Aintree as thousands of people descend on the area for the races.

It was also announced that should the RMT call the strike off any later than 5 April, in what Merseyrail says would be “a political tactic to act as the saviour of the Grand National travelling public,” there would not be enough time for the operator to get normal services back up and running and restore emergency service cover and logistical support that is required for an event as large as the Grand National.

The dispute between the RMT Merseyrail and Northern is over the role of guards on trains, as operators are looking to move to driver-only operated trains, which would make the guards role redundant and is something the union says would compromise passenger safety.

The last time RMT took industrial action, major disruption was caused across the country, in particular on Northern trains where only 40% of normal services were run.

The announcement of Merseyrail’s contingency timetable also comes the day after RMT announced they had written to Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson urging him to step in to bring the bitter disagreement to an end.

Frank Rogers, chief executive of Merseytravel, said that close working has taken place between Merseyrail, Aintree and other transport operators to keep punters moving on the day of the races, as well as keep the rest of Liverpool’s travel network running as efficiently as possible.

“We are used to the transport challenges of big events with all partners coming together to go the extra mile,” explained Rogers. “This is no different.”

He also described the RMT’s action as “a calculated and cynical move by the RMT to try to use the Grand National, the jewel in our city-region’s crown, as a gambling chip in RMT’s national battle”.

“The RMT’s claim that this issue is about passenger safety falls apart when they are prepared to put the travelling public at risk by deliberately putting more pressure on a much reduced network,” said Rogers.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, added: “Our focus is clear – to support the Liverpool city-region and its economy on our biggest day of the year.

“Despite the RMT’s best efforts to scupper this iconic event and create misery for the tens of thousands of people who look forward to it all year, we’ve developed a timetable aimed at getting as many people between central Liverpool and Aintree, as we normally do on Grand National day.

“We are putting our passengers and the city-region first. The RMT is not.”

The Merseyrail MD concluded by urging the RMT to engage in meaningful conversations with operators rather than “playing games with our region’s biggest day”.

And John Baker, Aintree Racecourse’s managing director, commented: “We’ve been extremely encouraged that by working closely together with Merseyrail, Merseytravel and other transport providers we are doing everything possible to ensure racing fans will be transported effectively on Grand National day with as little disruption as possible.”

Top Image: Nick Ansell PA Wire

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Jerry Alderson   31/03/2017 at 13:55

RTM wrote: "operators are looking to move to driver-only operated trains." I prefer driver-controlled operation but nevermind. Is it really the "operators"? In the case of Merseyrail, surely they have been instructed by MerseyTravel. The RTM article ought to say "transport authorities are looking to move to ..." as that would also cover the DfT requirements imposed on Southern and Northern.

Peter Lee   31/03/2017 at 18:07

DOO was originally designed to move empty train stock around the network it's not suited to moving passengers around the rail network solely. The cameras do not give a good enough picture of the platform and you cannot see the important information to dispatch safely such as body language more importantly you can't hear anything so you only have very limited operational information this means it's easy to separate families, passengers can become stranded and people with learning difficulties and mental health issues are st huge risk. Unfortunately the DFT's main customer is the Train Operating Companies and their main concern is their shareholders . The passengers needs don't even enter the equation because they have worked out that their insurance payments cover any liability up to £12'000'000 basically 12 incidents before it hits their profits. Taking guards off the trains is unsafe and only profits the companies and the DFT who seem hellbent on modernisation which means the passenger paying more every year for less reality sucks eh.

Market Bosworth   03/04/2017 at 20:27

"... DFT who seem hellbent on modernisation ..." Railways move into 21st century shock!

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