Northern, Merseyrail and Southern look for fresh talks with the RMT after Southern rail dispute spreads

Rebecca Smith
Members of the RMT union walked out in a dispute over changes to their jobs
Members of the RMT union walked out in a dispute over changes to their jobs (Source: Getty)

Train operators are looking for ways to see off further strike action after a 24-hour walkout was held on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail yesterday in disputes over the role of the guard.

Up to 2,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union went on strike yesterday, with walkouts on Merseyrail and Northern after the union accused the train firms of failing to provide "cast iron" assurances about the future of the guard.

Merseyrail said it was “committed to resolving this dispute” after the train operator was forced to run a heavily reduced service, with many drivers refusing to cross picket lines. In the end, it ran 20 per cent of services.

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“We are in contact with the RMT, and all being well will be getting back round the table with them very soon,” said a spokeswoman.

Legal action tabled by the Merseyrail in an effort to stop yesterday's industrial action failed last week, despite it arguing the decision to order new trains operating without guards was taken by council leaders, and it had no choice but to implement the plans.

Northern ran around 40 per cent of trains during yesterday's walkout after asking passengers to leave plenty of time for their journeys and only travel if necessary. It will have new trains coming into service from late next year, and while plans for these haven't been unveiled yet, the trains don't require a guard.

A spokesperson for Northern said: “We want to get round the table again as quickly as possible”.

“We urge the RMT to continue the talks we have already started,” they added.

Our aim is to reach a constructive resolution to their dispute. We want to protect jobs and pay, and during our recent discussions we offered to consult fully with our people, customers and key stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Southern has taken a more hard-line stance after it said the RMT’s long-running action on its services was becoming “increasingly impotent and ineffective”.

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It reported that as of 4pm yesterday, it had run nearly 90 per cent of its normal train service, saying over half of conductors and on-board supervisors reported for work.

A Southern spokesperson said: “We've made it clear to the RMT that we'll meet with them if they confirm they will not call any further industrial action.”

An RMT spokesperson said all three situations will be reviewed by the union’s executive and it will then decide on next steps in the disputes, though at this stage, “all options remain open”.

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