New rail strike announced for Grand National day
Rail UnionÂ RMT has confirmed further strike action byÂ guards and driver members on Arriva Rail North over the introduction of Driver Only Operations.
Union officials say the company continues to fail to give clear guarantees on the future safety-critical role of their guards.
The union has called a 24-hour strike on Saturday April 8, the day of the Grand National.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The continuing refusal of the company to give a simple, lasting guarantee that protects the safety-critical role of the guard on their trains leaves RMT with no option but to announce this further day of strike action.
"The date we have announced gives Arriva Rail North ample time to get round the table with us and negotiate a settlement that puts passenger safety right at its core.
“This dispute, and the industrial action we have announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously, stuck to their earlier commitments and had put passenger safety before profit.
“The company’s intransigence has forced our hand and given us to option but to announce this latest phase of industrial action. The disruption to services will be entirely down to Arriva Rail North reneging on their earlier commitments.
"The union remains available for genuine and meaningful talks and we await a response from the company to that offer.”
Northern bosses say they are surprised by the RMT's decision.
Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Arriva Rail North, said: “We are surprised that RMT has announced strike action for Saturday 8 April as we had been in contact with their officials in the last 24 hours to organise further talks.
“We have been clear that we want RMT, along with our people, our customers and stakeholders, to play a role in bringing our modernisation plans to life. We want to work with everyone on how we modernise the way we provide customer service and continue to run a safe and reliable railway.”
RMT members are concerned driver only operation will remove the safety critical role of guards, impacting on passenger safety.
The introduction of driver only operation on 50 per cent of trains is one of the franchise commitments made by Arriva in its deal with the Department for Transport.
German-owned Arriva has new trains on order which will allow driver only operation. They are expected to be introduced on services, including some from Blackpool and Preston, next year.
Earlier this month RMT members staged a 24 hour walkout during which Northern was able to operate half its normal timetable.
Merseyrail guards will walk out on the same day.