No sign of an end to West Yorkshire weekend rail strikes says Northern chief

Northern has been running a reduced service on weekends.
Northern has been running a reduced service on weekends.

Transport chiefs have warned there could be no end in sight to industrial action on the region’s railway network.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on Arriva Rail North (Northern) recently held a ninth consecutive weekend of strikes on services in the north of England, over plans to introduce driver-only trains.

Northern Rail’s Pete Myers told West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Leeds district consultation sub-committee that management and unions were “not talking” and that there was “no sign of an end” over the strikes.

He also addressed the timetable problems during the summer.

But David Brady, a member of the public, asked: “There is no mention of all the strike days. There was barely a service on Saturday.”

Mr Myers responded: “We are painfully aware the risk (the strike) has on West Yorkshire’s economy, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

“There appears to be no sign of an end to this.

“If you asked me three or four weeks ago I’d say it looked encouraging.

“But it’s gone back again since. We will talk and if we can find an end to it we should.”

Chairing the meeting, Leeds councillor Michael Lyons (Lab) asked: “Are we still talking or is there a strike on forever?”

Mr Myers responded: “Unfortunately those talks turned to nought – currently we aren’t talking.”

Coun Lyons said: “We have reached a ridiculous position – we have two sides not talking to each other – somehow we have to run a railway.

“Both sides have dug their heels in and it’s the people out there who are suffering.

“You are waiting for someone to break. I have been around a lot of strikes in my time, and I can assure you – you will be waiting a long time.”

Mr Myers replied: “I’m sure things are happening that I am not aware of, but currently, as far as I can see, we appear to be at an impasse.”

Coun Lyons said: “I am sad to hear this.

“The majority of people I know in Leeds are fed up and saying something should happen.

“As far as I can see, I think both management and trade unions should be getting together, and this impasse is not good enough.

“If it was up to me I would withdraw the money so nobody would be on the trains, and we’ll see how far we get then.”

Northern is currently considering driver-only-operated trains in future, while union members say guards fulfil a wider safety role.