Workers at three rail operators are to stage a fresh 24-hour strike on the day of the Grand National, as a bitter dispute over staffing and the role of conductors continues.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern, Merseyrail and Arriva Trains North will walk out on Saturday, April 8, causing fresh travel misery for hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Many people travel to the Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool by train, so any disruption to Merseyrail services will hit those going to the biggest race in the world.
The RMT also announced that a planned strike on Southern - owned by Govia Thameslink Railway - on April 4 had been moved to the 8th after the company offered fresh talks if the industrial action was suspended.
General secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT members on Southern Rail have been fighting for safety and access to rail services for nearly a year now and it is time for the company to get out of the bunker and to start making some progress.
"There is no reason for Southern/GTR to drag their heels and RMT is prepared to meet on the 4th of April as they have requested.
"We now have plenty of breathing space to get talks under way and we would urge the company to seize the opportunity that our decision today has opened up for both parties and the union would prefer for the talks to happen sooner rather than later.
"RMT guards and driver members on Southern have shown incredible strength and resilience throughout the past year and have been clear from the off that this is not a dispute about 'who opens the doors' - it is a dispute about a safe method of operation and about the guarantee of that crucial, second safety-critical member of staff on Southern services.
"It is time for that fundamental issue to be addressed at the negotiating table.
"If Southern are prepared to agree to talks on April 4, or sooner, with meaningful proposals on the table that address the issues at the heart of the dispute, the union's executive would be in a position to consider the suspension of the current planned action."
The union is ramping up its publicity campaign, involving the general public and targeting politicians across the area served by Arriva Rail North aimed at maximising political and public support for RMT’s fight for a guaranteed guard on the company’s services.
Mr Cash said: “The continuing refusal of the company to give a simple, lasting guarantee that protects the safety-critical role of the guard on their trains leaves RMT with no option but to announce this further day of strike action.
"The date we have announced, the 8th April, gives Arriva Rail North ample time to get round the table with us and negotiate a settlement that puts passenger safety right at its core.
“This dispute, and the industrial action we have announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the union's deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously, stuck to their earlier commitments and had put passenger safety before profit.
“The company’s intransigence has forced our hand and given us to option but to announce this latest phase of industrial action. The disruption to services will be entirely down to Arriva Rail North reneging on their earlier commitments. The union remains available for genuine and meaningful talks and we await a response from the company to that offer.”