Northern Rail staff who are members of the RMT union yesterday announced plans for seven more weeks of disruption in a long-running dispute over the roles of guards.
The will walk out for 24 hours today and successive Saturdays until December 29. Similar strikes have taken place at weekends since July.
The new action will take the number of strikes to 43, despite the Government having guaranteed the guards their jobs for at least the next six years.
It will mean Christmas partygoers being forced into taxis or buses to get home from Saturday events over the holiday period.
The RMT opposes plans to move the rail industry towards a driver-controlled system and wants guards to retain responsibility for opening and closing the carriage doors.
Today’s strike, which also affects South Western Rail, prompted a warning to rugby fans travelling to Twickenham for England’s international against South Africa to allow extra time.
South Western said: “We would like to make it completely clear that we will continue to roster a guard on all our trains, and that our future plans require more, not less guards.
“We have guaranteed to roster a guard with safety critical competencies on all our services.”
Northern said it expected to run around 30 per cent of services today, with replacement buses on some routes and few if any evening trains.
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said Northern had “dragged their heels and made a mockery of the talks process.”
Meanwhile, the company expects a ruling from the transport regulator this month on whether it breached its contractual requirements to keep passengers informed during the summer’s timetable chaos. The Office of Rail and Road said the firm could face “formal enforcement action”.
Northern Rail’s stakeholder manager, Pete Myers, told passenger representatives in Wakefield that talks with the union were deadlocked.
He said: “I genuinely apologise to customers because I know they’re facing disruption. At the same time I know they don’t want to hear me apologise, they just want their service back. It’s bad news for commuters and bad news for the economy of the North, which really has suffered as a result of the problems this year.
“About a month ago I’d have been more optimistic and said we were in a good position. But then the goalposts shifted.
“So that’s where we are.”