Northern rail strike to affect Britney Spears' concert fans

Britney Spears and Blackpool Tower Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Britney Spears will perform on Blackpool beach

People attending Britney Spears' concert in Blackpool face disruption as Northern rail staff stage a strike.

Members of the rail workers' RMT union are holding a 24-hour walkout for the second Saturday in a row in a dispute over driver-only-operated trains.

Northern will run 30% of its services, while some will also be cut on Sunday.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: "We urge the RMT to stop pushing its members into taking action to interrupt services."

Britney's concert is taking place during the first weekend of this year's Blackpool Illuminations, when thousands of visitors head to the Lancashire resort.

Other events set to be affected by Saturday's strike

  • Bingley Music Live
  • Hull Freedom Festival
  • Beverley Races - Beverley Bullet
  • Chester Races Ladies Day
Image copyright PA

One passenger who was travelling from Manchester Piccadilly to Glasgow told the BBC the strike meant alternative TransPennine trains had been packed.

"We weren't allowed on our train because it was too full, despite having made seat reservations two weeks in advance," the passenger said.

The Northern rail strike is the second in a series of walkouts planned for six consecutive Saturdays until 29 September.

The RMT has accused company bosses of "stringing its negotiators along", saying there had been an opportunity to agree "on the ‎guard guarantee that matches the best practice in the industry".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The two-year dispute has affected commuters and rail firms nationwide

The union's general secretary Mick Cash said agreements had been reached with Greater Anglia and in Wales and Scotland.

On Friday, the RMT and Merseyrail operator agreed driver-only-operated trains should have a second member of staff on them.

Mr Cash said Northern "need to do the right thing and come to an agreement that secures a guard on their trains too".

A Northern spokesman said negotiations were continuing with the union.

What is the dispute about?

  • This weekend's strike is part of a nationwide two-year dispute about the increase of driver-only-operated trains
  • Driver-only-operated trains are where the driver, rather than the conductor, opens and closes the doors
  • A third of Britain's services already have this in place and it has been in operation for about 30 years
  • The rail safety regulator says it is safe - a position that has been supported by the government
  • Rail unions disagree - they say the on-board conductor or guard has a much better view of the doors and can stop people getting trapped
  • The London tube network is driver-only operated

The DfT spokesman said: "The independent rail regulator has ruled that driver-controlled trains, which have been used in this country for 30 years, are safe.

"Staff have also had jobs and pay guaranteed for the length of the franchises."

Some Sunday services will also be cancelled across north-west England, after 5% of services were dropped over Sundays in August.

Northern has said they had been withdrawn due to engineering works around Manchester and crew scheduling "difficulties".

Liam Sumpter, the firm's regional director, said: "We are doing all we can to keep our customers on the move and are focussing on running as many trains as possible."

The cancellations follows disruption across the Northern network this summer.

Northern rail's summer of disruption

Image copyright Getty Images
  • More than 165 daily train services were cancelled following a chaotic timetable introduction in May.
  • Services partially resumed at the end of July.
  • Northern cancelled about 5% of its services on Sundays in August.
  • Last month, the operator apologised after a passenger who is disabled was told she could not travel with her mobility scooter despite being sold a ticket face-to-face.
  • Northern RMT members plan to walk out on six consecutive Saturdays until 29 September in the row over driver-only-operated trains

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