Strikes on Northern rail services are suspended after talks breakthrough

Leeds City Station.
Leeds City Station.

Strike action on Northern rail services has been suspended after a “major breakthrough” in talks, the RMT union said today.

Members of the RMT at Arriva Rail North – which operates the Northern franchise – have staged nearly 50 days of strike action since March 2017 in a dispute over the role of guards on trains.

The union now says it has received a Department for Transport-backed guarantee that conductors will continue to work on all services throughout the duration of the current franchise.

As a result, it has put plans for further walkouts – including one that was due to take place this Saturday – on hold.

Passengers have been warned, however, that a reduced service will still be in operation on Saturday, with Northern saying that today’s announcement has come at too short notice for the reintroduction of a full timetable.

A normal Saturday schedule will be back in force on February 16.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Firstly I want to pay tribute to RMT’s members at Northern whose resilience and determination though two years and 47 days of action has been the foundation on which today’s major breakthrough has been based. They are an absolute credit to both this union and the wider movement.”

He added: “Today’s offer of a guarantee of a conductor on all services throughout the duration of the franchise, including the new fleet, is the substantial progress we have been pushing for and has allowed RMT’s executive to take the decision to suspend the current action and allow for further talks to now take place with all stakeholders around the operational details.”

Northern managing director David Brown said: “We warmly welcome RMT’s decision to suspend its strike action and recommence talks about what the future role of the conductor looks like.

“We have been very clear in these discussions that there will be a conductor on all our trains now and into the future.

“We are looking forward to further positive talks with RMT about operational models moving ahead.

“The suspension of the RMT strikes is good news for customers and businesses across the North.”

The breakthrough in the dispute follows talks between the RMT and Northern brokered by Sir Brendan Barber, chair of conciliation service Acas.