Northern rail: Guards row sparks fresh strikes

Bolton station Image copyright Sumir Mahatma
Image caption Sumir Mahatma said there was "chaos" at Bolton station because of the delays

Passengers on Northern rail trains have been hit by more disruption after staff walked out in a fresh strike in a long-running dispute over guards.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are staging a 24-hour stoppage, with further walkouts planned for Thursday and Saturday.

The company said it would run as many services as possible until 19:00 BST.

Customers have reacted angrily to delays and overcrowding with the strike action also being questioned.

The union claims imposing driver-only services is a risk to public safety.

Regional director for Northern, Sharon Keith, said: "On each day of the strike action we will be running fewer services and expect those services we do operate to be extremely busy.

"It is, therefore, vital that anyone thinking of travelling with Northern on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday plans their journey carefully."

Are trains being affected more by strikes?

Although 2017 saw fewer strikes on average than in the years between 2011 and 2014, it was the biggest year for workers in the transport and storage sector since 2009.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 276,400 working days were lost due to industrial action, of which 187,000 were down to the transport and storage sector.

The ONS said 15,100 workers in these industries were involved in 27 stoppages.

That compares with 60,200 working days lost in 2015 in 19 stoppages, even though more workers went on strike.

The last year in the past decade where there was so much disruption was in 2009.

This was a year that saw strikes by Royal Mail workers, who came under the same category for statistical recording, as well as strikes on the London Underground.

Sumir Mahatma said there was hundreds of people waiting to get on to one train into Manchester at Bolton station after others had been cancelled, and he ended up late for work.

On Twitter, @MCStu1962 said that he no longer had sympathy for the RMT.

He said: "The strikes clearly aren't working because you are only hurting ordinary people yet you keep on doing it."

Image copyright RMT
Image caption Strikers also stood together at a picket line in Skipton, North Yorkshire

Meanwhile, others were surprised Northern had not backed down in the talks, with @stemcqueenie said "you would think they would cancel the strikes amid all the timetable chaos".

@GTR_Warwick said there were "extra carriages and better service" on a strike day, while @beccimoorby said she felt sorry for the "poor staff" and that the company was "a shambles".

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It's another day and another rail scandal under [Transport Secretary] Chris Grayling.

"Instead of propping up a foreign owned company in its fight against British workers, Chris Grayling should be allowing meaningful discussions to take place which would allow passengers to keep a second member of staff on every train."

A Department for Transport spokesman said the dispute was not about "jobs or safety".

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"Guards have been guaranteed their jobs and the independent rail regulator has ruled that driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for 30 years, are safe," he said.

Image copyright RMT
Image caption RMT members joined a picket line outside Workington station in Cumbria

"We urge the union to abandon these strikes, work with the train operator and make passengers' services their number one priority."

RMT members on South Western Railway were due to strike for three days from Thursday in the same dispute, however that action has been suspended following talks at the conciliation service Acas.

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