Latest Rail News


RMT extends DOO dispute to Northern and Merseyrail

The RMT has widened its dispute with Northern Rail as it has given the franchise’s operator Arriva Rail North two weeks to clarify whether trains will retain their guards or risk dispute.

The union is already balloting its members for strikes on Northern Rail due to a dispute over an “unacceptable” pay offer with voting due to close on 25 January, the day before the RMT’s new deadline for assurances about the guards.

RMT has also extended a similar threat of strike action to Merseyrail, which plans to introduce a new fleet of driver-only-operated (DOO) trains in Merseyside from 2020.

“We have been seeking assurances from Arriva Rail North that they will retain a guard on their trains and that the guard will retain their safety critical role. Regrettably this assurance has to date not been received,” said the RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash.

“The RMT find this lack of clarity unacceptable and we have advised the company that should we not receive these assurances by Thursday 26 January 2017 then our two organisations will be in dispute.”

RMT’s position on DOO has been made clear by its ongoing dispute with Southern rail with the union refusing to agree on any extensions of DOO on the grounds of passenger safety.

Northern said that as its new franchise only started nine months ago, now was “not the time” for a potential dispute as it looks to make improvements across its network.

“Our plans for customers include new and refurbished trains, station improvements, more seats and extra services during peak periods. It is really important to us that our colleagues and their representatives are involved in discussing how to bring these improvements to life,” a Northern statement read.

Northern added that it is prepared to “sit down and work positively with the trade union” to avoid the dispute.

Merseyrail declared itself “surprised and disappointed” to hear RMT’s comments, saying that there had been no “substantive” discussions between the two organisations on the question of DOO.

“The Liverpool city-region needs and deserves new trains, which will be modern, safe, faster and comfortable, with more capacity to support the economic growth of a modern city-region,” Merseyrail said.

“The new trains will be safer than the ones they replace - and there will still be staff on board focusing on customer duties.”

When announcing its new Stadler-built fleet last December, Merseyrail admitted that a reduction in paid posts over the next four years would be necessary to fund the ‘must-do’ project.

However, Merseyrail has guaranteed continued employment for all of its current guards, although their jobs will be converted into on-board customer service roles. The company hopes that the necessary reduction of staff will be reached by redeployment, voluntary redundancies and retirement.

(Image c. Alvey and Towers)

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here 


Lutz   12/01/2017 at 19:08

De-recognise the RMT, and sack anyone that then goes absent without leave.

Jerry Alderson   13/01/2017 at 15:12

The RMT has until 2019 before there will be any changes on Northern or Merseyrail, so it is somewhat jumping the gun. I can understand that the RMT deliberately brought forward action against ScotRail by a year because it wanted to defeat it (and succeeded) in order to use it as ammunution in the Southern dispute (failed so far). On ScotRail the second person will stil make the decision to close the doors and depart, so when there is an RMT strike all trains will be axed. The only change is that the driver will unlock the doors - a small time-saving improvement in service for passengers. Northern has a contact with the DfT to operate DCO on 50% of its services. As I understand it Northern has the choice of whether to have an OBS on board but it says it intends to do so on all services. I'm not sure if there are any exceptional circumstances when the train will go without an OBS. I've never met Charles Horton of GTR (I met Dyan Crowther when she was stil at NR, then without the experiece of running a TOC) so I don't know his capaciblities. However, I've met Alex Hynes of Northern a couple of times and was impressed. I'm confident that he will not make the same mistakes as GTR on this matter. He does have the advantage that the Northern franchise is introducing a vast array of improvements, whereas Southern was largely a zero-improvement concession (just new trains) prior to the Thameslink Programme being completed, so Northern should at least have much more passenger support. MerseyRail doesn't have a contract with the DfT but with the Labour-controlled local authority transport body. It has no money to buy the new trains without cutting staff costs so it can't do a U-turn and keep the guards. In summary, I do not see any of the TOCs backing down. So this will become Southern Strike Mark II. The very low-key dispute seems to be the Glasgow Subway, which will cease to have any drivers from 2020. My guess is that there will be generous pay-offs and a dispute will be avoided.

Harry Perkins   13/01/2017 at 23:20

Why would the Unions want to wait until the trains are almost built before taking action. The longer they can cause problems, the more leverage they have. I also can't see either side backing down so it sadly looks like we are in for a couple of years of dispute.

Digby Doodah   28/02/2017 at 19:08

Jerry, Merseytravel had the option of Dual Operation or Driver Only for the same price but decided on the latter (a sweetheart deal with the DfT protecting their funding has been mooted), the new trains go into production later this year so our ballot is far from "jumping the gun". Additionally, Merseyrail have guaranteed absolutely NOTHING in writing except that the new trains will be D.O.O., rumour and red-herrings have been there preferred method of disinformation.

Add your comment


Rail industry Focus

View all News


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >

Most Read

'the sleepers' blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he would not rule out his organisation issuing future r... more >
Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

08/05/2019Advancing the rail industry with management degree apprenticeships

In answering the pressing questions of how current and future generations of managers can provide solutions to high-profile infrastructure projects across the UK, Pearson Business School, part of... more >