More rail strike misery for North-East train passengers

Northern passengers are facing more disruption next month.
Northern passengers are facing more disruption next month.

Rail users in the region face further delays following confirmation of the latest in a series of strikes over safety fears.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Arriva Rail North, whose Northern services run between Sunderland and Hartlepool, will walk out on Tuesday, October 3, and Thursday, October 5.

They will be joined by colleagues at Southern, Merseyrail and Greater Anglia with the action coinciding with the Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester.

Other stations in the North East to be affected will include Newcastle, Seaham, Seaton Carew, Billingham and Middlesbrough.

The dispute centres on safety fears over the proposed introduction of Driver Only Operation (DOO) trains.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said the union wanted to resolve all the issues by including the Department for Transport (DfT) in talks with the rail operators.

He said: "The failure to get those talks moving following our face-to-face meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has left us no option but to call further action.

"RMT has a clear plan for resolving this dispute but that requires round-table talks now to push forwards. This fiasco cannot be allowed to drag on any longer."

Mr Cash accused Arriva Rail North of "intransigence", adding: "The responsibility for the inevitable disruption lies wholly with the company. We are angry and frustrated that Arriva continue to fail to face up to the facts and also continue to ignore a perfectly reasonable union proposal to invite the DfT to join us in round-table talks aimed at finding a solution.

"The public, who support RMT's campaign for a guarantee of a guard on their trains, will be appalled that Arriva Rail North have failed yet again to offer any kind of progress whatsoever in the talks and have instead opted to try and bulldoze through their plans regardless."

Richard Allan, Arriva Rail North's deputy managing director, said: "Northern is modernising local rail with new and refurbished trains, better stations and faster journeys, and while strike action is disruptive, we remain firmly focused on delivering a better service for our customers.

"RMT continues to reject our offers to talk and we are disappointed that the union has called further strike action.

"We are still prepared to guarantee jobs and current pay for all our conductors for the next eight years."

Arrive Rail North has run an emergency timetable on strike days with around 40 per cent of Northern trains still operating.