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Northern braces for nightmare Grand National with less than a third of trains running

Northern has today released its reduced timetable for Grand National day this Saturday when RMT drivers and guards go on strike – revealing that only 32% of its normal service will be in operation.

The news comes on the same day as RMT are set to sit down for talks with Southern in the latest attempt to bring the long-running dispute over drive-only-operated (DOO) trains to an end.

It also comes a day after fellow union Aslef’s members narrowly rejected a vote to accept a proposed deal with Southern.

Today, Northern told passengers on its services to expect major disruption on Saturday, and has even warned punters heading to Aintree for the races that the last Northern train departing from Liverpool Lime Street will be at 18.30 – before the event ends.

This means that customers wanting to return by train will have to use other operators or rely on alternative forms of travel on the way back.

Northern wrote to customers: “On a bumper day of sporting activity – including the Grand National at Aintree Racecourse and popular football fixtures – we expect to run 822 trains, more than 32% of our normal services.  These services will cover many, but not all, of our routes and stations across the north of England.

“This action comes as we start our journey to modernise your railway by 2020. Our modernisation plans include significant investment in new trains, new services and more seats. We have to make changes on this journey to modernisation and we want to involve everyone as we develop our plans, from our customers and communities, to employees and their trade unions.

“Please be aware that any services we are able to run will be extremely busy. Give yourself extra time to travel and consider whether your journey is necessary.”

RMT also revealed today that a survey conducted by the union found that 13 northern councils had recently passed motions opposing the removal of guards from trains at their meetings.

General secretary Mick Cash said he hoped these motions and the continued support from local authorities would result in “concrete action” being taken against rail operators in order to keep guards on trains.

Northern’s announcement today means that Saturday may be an even tougher day for the operator than the last time RMT went on strike on 13 March, when it was able to run slightly more trains – 40% of its normal services.

Another operator that is going to be affected is Merseyrail, which also recently announced that it would be running a heavily reduced service on most of its network besides trains going to and from Aintree in order to accommodate the huge numbers of people needing to travel on that line.

The RMT branded this a “scab” timetable, arguing that Merseyrail was putting passengers at risk by operating such a limited timetable during the strikes.

“Instead of ripping up the safety rule book, and scrambling round to run a high-risk, scab-operated skeleton service on the 8 April, Merseyrail should be back round the table with the union investing their time and energy in reaching a sustainable solution to this dispute which guarantees passenger safety,” Cash argued.

“The union is taking up the company plans for the 8th April with the safety regulator, the ORR. RMT will not stand aside and look on while the safety of the travelling public is compromised in this cavalier fashion.”

Image: c. Alvey and Towers


Neil Palmer   04/04/2017 at 23:42

Ah Mick. Calls a strike on Grand National day knowing services will still have to run for the thousands who will attend, therefore if anyone is putting passenger safety at risk it is him. There will probably be more deaths on the roads due to this strike - too bad he can't be charged with manslaughter. The way his mind works is an absolute mystery. I hope that when he dies he donates his brain to medical science.

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