Politicians join Wigan rail staff on strike picket line

Rail staff taking part in industrial action as part of a long-running safety dispute have been backed by politicians.
The picket line at Wigan Wallgate stationThe picket line at Wigan Wallgate station
The picket line at Wigan Wallgate station

RMT members were joined on the picket line by Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Makerfield parliamentary representative Yvonne Fovargue at Wigan Wallgate station on Monday.

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Borough elected members Coun Paul Kenny and Coun Pat Draper also showed their support.

Ms Nandy said: "Losing guards from local train services would turn our railways into no-go areas for many people with disabilities, older people and women travelling late at night.

"Train guards provide vital assistance to passengers, as well as peace of mind that staff are accessible for those who need them.

“Guards are trained to prevent security incidents, and losing them would present an unacceptable risk to passenger safety. Only months after the Manchester attack, the loss of experienced staff from our services seems dangerously short-sighted.

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“Our guards are well liked and highly valued by passengers. The response from local people to the RMT outside Wallgate station was overwhelmingly supportive and it is time that ministers listened to the public demand for their roles to be protected.”

Ms Fovargue was equally emphatic in her support for the staff involved in the dispute.

She said: “This dispute is not about terms and conditions of staff. It is about the deep-seated reservations that front-line staff have about the introduction of driver only operated trains on our local rail network.

"I share their concerns about the risk to passenger safety or accessibility for disabled passengers. That’s why I wanted to show my support today by joining staff on the picket line.

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“Train operating companies must get round the table and deliver a deal that retains guards and puts safety first."

The action is the first of two strike days this week as the union battles to keep guards on the trains and resist driver-only services.

The second round of industrial action will be on Thursday March 29.

Union leaders praised the determination of staff, saying the strike action was rock solid in the region.

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RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT members are standing firm and united again this morning on picket lines across Arriva Rail North as the fight for rail safety the length and breadth of the franchise enters its second year.

"It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a battle to put public safety before private profit.

"Northern want to run half a million trains a year without a safety-critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access ‎to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately.

"RMT has agreed arrangements in Wales and Scotland that enshrine the guard guarantee. If it's good enough for Wales and Scotland to have safe rail services it should be good enough for the rest of Britain. Arriva Rail North should get out of the bunker and start talking."