Transport for the North has called on rail operating company Northern and trade union RMT to return to the negotiating table as a long-running dispute over the future of train guards showed no sign of being resolved.
The statutory transport body said it was acting in the interest of the region’s passengers, with the aim of easing significant disruption during the busy run-up to Christmas.
Read more: Why has RMT strike action at Northern been taking place?
Its members, made up of civic and business leaders across the North, were said to have agreed a position they hope will encourage both the rail operator and the union to work to resolve their differences.
Weekend services on the network operated by Northern have been severely disrupted, with last Saturday representing the 37th day of strike action by RMT members.
A statement from members, issued last night, said Transport for the North did not support removing the second person from trains.
It reads: “Transport for the North is concerned that the ongoing industrial dispute between Northern and the RMT, with further industrial action planned in the run up to Christmas, will add to the significant disruption that rail passengers across the North of England continue to experience.
“Transport for the North does not support removing the second person from trains, particularly when a significant proportion of rail stations in the North of England are classed as inaccessible for disabled passengers.”
It goes on to say that it would be willing to consider “all options” that would facilitate an agreement between both sides.
The transport body said it hopes the statement will enable further talks and has urged the RMT to suspend all planned industrial action.
Its chief executive, Barry White, said: “Businesses across the North’s villages, towns and cities are reaching their busiest time of year. Christmas markets are transforming our bustling centres and people want to enjoy all our economies have to offer. But this is being hampered by uncertainty and disruption on the rail network. People are choosing to make other plans as a result.
“It’s apparent that we need to restore confidence in the North’s railways. There needs to be a way forward. Now more than ever, passengers in the North need reliability as they go about what is a busy time for everyone. We urge both parties to begin meaningful discussions as soon as possible.”
Transport for the North's full statement
Transport for the North is concerned that the ongoing industrial dispute between Northern and the RMT, with further industrial action planned in the run up to Christmas, will add to the significant disruption that rail passengers across the North of England continue to experience.
Transport for the North does not support removing the second person from trains, particularly when a significant proportion of rail stations in the North of England are classed as inaccessible for disabled passengers.
Transport for the North notes that the normal course of events would be for Northern to reach agreement with the RMT, as has been the case in other parts of the country, and to then seek approval for such an agreement through the Rail North Partnership if any amendments were required to contract terms. Transport for the North wishes to clarify that it would be willing to consider all options that would facilitate such an agreement.
Transport for the North hopes that this clarification will enable Northern and the RMT to have further discussions about staffing arrangements and would urge the RMT to suspend all planned industrial action.The move reflects the sentiment from Transport for the North’s members: that passenger confidence in the North’s railways must be restored and that the North’s economy cannot suffer as a result of continued disruption.