Transport group backs keeping guards on trains in move to end rail strike
A leading transport group has given its support to keeping guards on trains in a move to get the parties in a long-running industrial dispute back around the negotiating table.
Transport for the North has confirmed it does not support driver-only operations as it tries to end a rolling programme of industrial action amid fears it will cause chaos in the run-up to Christmas.
Last Saturday's walk-out was the 37th day of strike action by RMT members in the union's dispute with Northern.
Transport for the North, which is made up of civic and business leaders and is a statutory body, says it hopes the announcement will encourage the RMT to suspend its strikes and bring both the union and Northern together for fresh discussions.
It cited particular concerns about disabled passengers using the railway and said it was responding to its members' concerns.
The union has given a guarded welcome to the move.
Transport for the North's statement read: "Transport for the North is concerned that the ongoing industrial dispute between Northern and the RMT, with further industrial action planned in the run up to Christmas, will add to the significant disruption that rail passengers across the North of England continue to experience.
"Transport for the North does not support removing the second person from trains, particularly when a significant proportion of rail stations in the North of England are classed as inaccessible for disabled passengers.
"Transport for the North notes that the normal course of events would be for Northern to reach agreement with the RMT, as has been the case in other parts of the country, and to then seek approval for such an agreement through the Rail North Partnership if any amendments were required to contract terms.
"Transport for the North wishes to clarify that it would be willing to consider all options that would facilitate such an agreement.
"Transport for the North hopes that this clarification will enable Northern and the RMT to have further discussions about staffing arrangements and would urge the RMT to suspend all planned industrial action.
"The move reflects the sentiment from Transport for the North’s members: that passenger confidence in the North’s railways must be restored and that the North’s economy cannot suffer as a result of continued disruption."
Transport for the North’s chief executive Barry White said: “Businesses across the North’s villages, towns and cities are reaching their busiest time of year. Christmas markets are transforming our bustling centres and people want to enjoy all our economies have to offer. But this is being hampered by uncertainty and disruption on the rail network. People are choosing to make other plans as a result.
“It’s apparent that we need to restore confidence in the North’s railways. There needs to be a way forward. Now more than ever, passengers in the North need reliability as they go about what is a busy time for everyone. We urge both parties to begin meaningful discussions as soon as possible.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said in response: “In light of the statement from Transport for the North RMT awaits any new proposals from Northern which maintain for the travelling public the same level of safety, security and access that they enjoy at the moment based on the guarantee of the guard on every train.
“RMT remains available for talks."