Long, hard slog as commuters take to roads to beat rail strike

COMMUTERS faced a nightmare journey to work this morning as up to 2,000 workers at Northern Rail and two other companies went on strike in disputes over staffing.

Hundreds of thousands of rail passengers face a week of travel chaos because of a five-day strike in an escalating dispute over the role of conductors.
Hundreds of thousands of rail passengers face a week of travel chaos because of a five-day strike in an escalating dispute over the role of conductors.

More than half the services on Northern are cancelled today, with no trains running after around 5.30pm.

This morning, with early services scrapped, travellers were forced on to the roads to get to work. Others chose to take the day off or work from home.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

City centre car parks filled up earlier than usual, while at some stations, parking spaces were still available in usually-crammed car parks as late as 8am.

Commuters who boarded one of the remaining trains had a quieter-than-usual journey, but a crush is expected this afternoon as passengers rush to beat the early finish.

Across Yorkshire, main roads into the biggest towns and cities were busier than usual, with Leeds especially badly hit.

Northern customers have been told they can use their rail tickets today on Arriva buses, including Yorkshire Tiger services. The Harrogate Bus Company is also due to run extra journeys on its 36 route between Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport mounted pickets outside main stations and their members handed leaflets to passengers.

The union has called its members out at Southern Railway and Merseyrail, as well as Norther, for 24 hours in a growing row over the role of conductors.

More than half of services on Merseyrail and Arriva will be cancelled, while Southern said it aimed to run most of its 2,200 trains.

The RMT revealed it was considering legal options over “failure” of the Office of Rail Regulation to protect the rights of disabled passengers on Southern.

Northern said it is running around 40pc of its services, 980 trains, between 7am and 7pm.

“Our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages so it is disappointing that RMT is taking strike action.

“There is lots of time to talk and agree how we modernise the way we provide customer service.

“As part of our proposals we are prepared to offer guarantees on jobs and pay to our people,” said a spokesman.

Merseyrail failed to obtain a court injunction last week to stop the strike and then offered talks.

Angie Doll, Southern’s passenger services director, said: “We have shown that we can now run almost all our services during an RMT strike.

“Our on-board supervisors are now established in their roles and passengers are beginning to see the benefits of having someone whose sole job is customer service.”

RMT members are taking their 30th day of strike action, in a dispute which started almost a year ago and is the longest running in the transport industry.

David Sidebottom, director of the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said: “These industrial relations problems are being dumped on passengers who may have to cancel plans or endure miserable journeys. It is crucial that all parties have discussions to resolve this matter without bringing the railway to a standstill.”

Northern regional director Sharon Keith said: “Our aim is to deliver a public transport service for as many people as possible on Monday as we know Northern plays a key role in keeping the North of England moving. We expect all services, rail and bus, to be extremely busy and ask for customers’ patience on Monday.”