The RMT rail union has announced it has suspended its long-running strike action after breakthrough talks with Northern over the rail firm's plans to introduce driver-only trains.
Two years of deadlock are set to end after the union said that substantial progress in talks through the offices of ACAS has allowed the union’s executive to suspend the on-going programme of strike action on Northern Rail over the retention and the role of the guard on their trains.
Through the talks process the company have now offered a guarantee of a conductor on all trains, including the new fleet, for the duration of the current franchise. The guarantee is supported by the Department for Transport.
Further talks, involving all stakeholders, will now seek further agreement on operational models moving forwards.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Firstly I want to pay tribute to RMT’s members on Northern Rail whose resilience and determination though two years and 47 days of action has been the foundation on which today’s major breakthrough has been based. They are an absolute credit to both this union and the wider movement.
“I also want to thank the travelling public for their extraordinary support and both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram for their efforts that have been important in allowing us to break the deadlock today.
“Today’s offer of a guarantee of a conductor on all services throughout the duration of the franchise, including the new fleet, is the substantial progress we have been pushing for and has allowed RMT’s executive to take the decision to suspend the current action and allow for further talks to now take place with all stakeholders around the operational details.”
“The union will make further statements in due course.”
David Brown, Managing Director, Northern said: “We warmly welcome RMT’s decision to suspend its strike action and recommence talks about what the future role of the conductor looks like.
"We have been very clear in these discussions that there will be a conductor on all our trains now and into the future. We are looking forward to further positive talks with RMT about operational models moving ahead so that we can resolve their despite and bring it to an end.
"The suspension of the RMT strikes is good news for customers and businesses across the North.
"Changing a strike timetable back to a normal timetable is a very complex task. It is unfortunately too late for Northern to reintroduce a full timetable in time for this Saturday (Feb 9). We will run about 700 services with few services running after 5pm.
"We advise customers to check before they travel. From Saturday Feb 16, we are pleased to confirm that we will be running a full Saturday timetable."
The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has also welcomed the decision to suspend the industrial action.
The former Leigh MP said: “Taking guards off the trains was always going to undermine confidence in our railways. That is why I have backed the RMT’s call to keep the guard on our trains and I am pleased that this principle has now been accepted by the Department for Transport and Northern.
“Today’s announcement is good news for the public. It will help to keep trains safer and more accessible for everybody.
“In particular, I want to thank Brendan Barber who mediated between the operator and the RMT, as well as the Minister Andrew Jones, who has taken a constructive approach to this issue since he took office.
“While this is a welcome step forward it is not yet a final agreement. I hope Brendan Barber can bring the two sides together to reach that soon. In addition, we now need to see a full service being restored on Sundays so passengers have a full weekend rail service once again."