Rail strike will ‘hit more than half of services’

The long-running row over driver-only trains rumbles on.
The long-running row over driver-only trains rumbles on.
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One of the three rail companies facing fresh strikes in disputes about driver-only trains has warned that the action will hit more than half its services.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Arriva Trains North will walk out for three days from next Saturday over the deadlocked row.

The action is likely to have an impact on travellers and commuters in Leeds, with routes between Sheffield, Manchester, Newcastle and Bradford potentially affected.

The train operator said it expects to run, on average, more than 40 per cent of rail services across the three days, supplemented by additional rail replacement buses.

On Saturday and Monday, the majority of services will run from 7am to 7pm, though many routes will start to wind down from late afternoon.

On Sunday, most services will operate from 9am to 5pm.

All services are expected to be extremely busy and Northern is asking customers to allow extra time for journeys, plan carefully and consider whether travel is necessary.

Sharon Keith, regional director for Northern, said: “Being able to run more than 40 per cent of services, supplemented by the extra rail replacement buses, means we will be able to keep the north of England on the move.

“Our amended timetables have been developed to provide the best possible cover across the three days and to try to best meet the needs of our leisure customers at the weekend and commuters on Monday.

It will be the fourth strike in the dispute at Arriva North, which operates Northern rail services.

The last planned strike on May 30 was cancelled because of the terror attack on Manchester.

The union claims Arriva Rail North “continues to resist all efforts to make progress in the long-running dispute over rail safety and the head-long dash towards Driver Only Operation.”

The dispute centres round the train driver rather than the conductor opening and closing the doors and dispatching the train from a station.

Driver-only trains were first introduced in the UK in 1982, and now makes up around 30 per cent of the UK mainline network, as well as London Underground.

The Rail Safety and Standards Board and the independent regulator, the Office of Rail and Road have both concluded that driver-only is safe - but the unions have disputed the findings.

Meanwhile RMT members on Merseyrail will strike on July 8, 10 and 23, while Southern Railway will be hit by a 24-hour stoppage on July 10.

Members of the drivers union Aslef on Southern are not working overtime over the same dispute, which is disrupting services.

Union officials claimed trains from Eastbourne to London were cancelled on Saturday, even though train crew were available.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said the cancellations had caused “chaos” for passengers and “laid bare the complete and utter shambles on the Southern contract. “

However a Southern spokesman said: “The Aslef overtime ban means we have no choice but to reduce the number of trains planned to give our passengers a robust timetable.

“Where additional crew is available, we are using them wherever possible to run extra shuttle services.”