Rail strikes: Train workers at five firms walkout in safety row


Southern trains in LondonImage copyright
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Southern is facing its 39th RMT strike on Monday

Commuters are facing up to three days of disruption, as staff at five train firms begin a fresh wave of strikes in separate disputes over “rail safety”.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union members at Northern, Merseyrail, South Western Railway and Greater Anglia will strike on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

RMT members at Southern will also stage a 24-hour walkout on Monday.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the five franchises will “keep passengers moving” during the strikes.

Planned action

The 24-hour walkouts were called over separate disputes, all concerning rail safety, the RMT said.

It said the disputes were over issues including the role of train guards and the extension of driver-only services.

Strikes on each of the affected days will run from 00.01 until 23.59 GMT.

All of the affected firms have said they will be running services during the strikes:

  • Northern, which runs trains in north west and north east England, said it will run around 1,350 trains on strike days – about 60% of its normal service
  • South Western Railway (SWR), which operates out of stations including London Waterloo, Reading, Exeter and Southampton, plans to run about 70% of its normal service
  • Merseyrail said it will run a reduced service on its lines in and around Liverpool, mostly between 07:00 and 19:00 GMT, but with a break during the middle of the day
  • Southern said it planned to run a normal service on most of its routes across south England, but advised passengers to check for any last-minute changes
  • Greater Anglia said it planned to run a normal service with no alterations.

The Isle of Wight’s Island Line – run by SWR – will also operate hourly on Monday and Friday, with buses replacing services on Wednesday.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling calling for a summit with the Department for Transport and the train companies.

He said agreements had been reached in Scotland and Wales to keep guards on new modern trains.

“With goodwill on all sides we can reach an agreement in England as well,” he added.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady urged the government to respond “positively” to the proposal.

‘Unequivocally safe’

The Department for Transport said the row was not about safety, adding that “no one is losing their job”.

“Employees have been guaranteed jobs and salaries for several years,” the spokesman said.

“The independent rail regulator has stated unequivocally that driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for more than 30 years, are safe.”

He added: “Despite the best efforts of the RMT to cause misery for passengers, the train companies will keep passengers moving with the majority of services running as planned.”

It comes as Prime Minister Theresa May defended the latest train fare increases – of 3.4% – insisting rail investment was needed.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, she said: “A lot of people rely on our railways – we want to see good service on our railways but that does mean that investment is needed.”

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