Further rail strikes announced
Wigan's train services will be hit by industrial action again after a union announced further strikes in a long-running safety row.
RMT say staff on Arriva Rail North services will walk out on Friday September 1 and Monday September 4 in an ongoing dispute over driver-only trains.
The war of words between the union and operator Northern has also stepped up as the battle over keeping guards on the rails shows little sign of abating.
The RMT angrily accused Northern of failing to even consider keeping a second member of staff on trains, a move it says is absolutely critical to ensure passenger safety.
The train company, meanwhile, claimed the union has rejected its offers of discussion and criticised the timing of the strike as being calculated to cause major disruption.
However, the RMT says commuters support its safety campaign and accused rail franchises of ploughing through changes without broad approval.
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “Yet again we have been confronted with the sheer intransigence of Arriva Rail North and that means that we have no option but to confirm a further round of strike action.
“The responsibility for the inevitable disruption lies wholly with the company.
“We are angry and frustrated that Arriva continue to fail to face up to the facts and also continue to ignore a perfectly reasonable union proposal to invite the Department for Transport to join us in round-table talks aimed at finding a solution.
“The public, who support RMT’s campaign for a guarantee of a guard on their trains, will be appalled that Arriva Rail North have failed yet again to offer any kind of progress whatsoever in the talks and have instead opted to try and bulldoze through their plans regardless.
“It is that flagrant disregard for the safety issues at the heart of the dispute which leaves us with no option but to press on with the campaign of strike action.”
Mr Cash stressed the union remains available for talks.
Alan Chaplin, Northern’s managing director, said: “Following our meeting with RMT’s general secretary on August 18 there is no doubt that the trade union calling two days of strikes, timed to coincide with people across the North returning to school, college and work after the holidays, will damage the region’s economy, significantly disrupt our customers’ lives and impact local businesses.
“Northern is prepared to guarantee jobs and current pay for all our conductors for the next eight years, until the end of our franchise. Our offers to discuss every detail on the future responsibilities and training for on-board colleagues have been rejected by RMT.
“Northern is modernising with new and updated trains, faster and more frequent services, and better stations from now until 2020. We want to make changes to the on-board colleague role to make it fit for the future, better supporting customers on trains and at stations.
“If this strike action goes ahead, we will do all we can to keep customers on the move as much as possible.”