Fresh strikes in store for rail passengers in Wigan

Fresh strikes have been announced for Northern Rail
Fresh strikes have been announced for Northern Rail

Further headaches could be in the pipeline for rail passengers in Wigan with the confirmation of fresh strikes.

Union leaders from the RMT have said there will be two more bouts of industrial action, in the long-running dispute over driver-only operated trains, with the first taking place on Thursday. Another stoppage is scheduled for Saturday.

But train operator Northern has condemned the rail union's decision - and pledged that they would guarantee jobs for conductors until the end of their franchise in 2025.

The strikes announcement comes during a turbulent week for Northern, which has seen Mayor Andy Burnham and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy call for their franchise to be urgently reviewed - and a series of cancellations yesterday which were dubbed "Meltdown Monday" by the rail unions.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "“It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members on Arriva Rail North that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a battle to put public safety before private profit.

"The next phase of action on Thursday and Saturday goes ahead exactly as planned as the company refuse point blank to engage in talks.

"German-owned Northern Rail 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.

"We have seen again this week that Arriva are not capable of running a railway and have chosen to declare war on passengers and staff alike in the drive for increased profits while safety, access and reliability are left to rot.

"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.

"We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union remains ready for talks."

But Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: “We are delivering the biggest modernisation programme in a generation for customers, including 98 new trains that are now under construction, better stations and more services.

"It is disappointing that the RMT has chosen to target its strike action during the week of the Bank Holiday weekend, the first week of the new timetable and several events to commemorate the first anniversary of the Manchester attack.

"We are still prepared to guarantee jobs and pay reviews for conductors until the end of our franchise in 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that, but both guarantees depend on the RMT ending its strike action.

"We urge the RMT to move away from its nationally coordinated strikes and allow its local representatives to engage in meaningful discussions with us on how we better serve customers on-board our new and refurbished trains."