Grand National day travel chaos: Southern, Arriva Trains North and Merseyrail workers to strike on Saturday 8 April 2017

Aintree Races
Racegoers will face delays if they're travelling by train (Source: Getty)

A number of rail workers are set to strike on Grand National day, the RMT union has announced.

Southern, Arriva Trains North and Merseyrail workers are to strike on Saturday 8 April, the day the UK's biggest horse race takes place at Aintree, over the role of guards on trains.

RMT members will strike for 24 hours between 00:01 hours and 23:59 hours on 8 April, and the union said it will be "stepping up the campaign, involving the general public and targeting politicians across the area served by Merseyrail, aimed at maximising political and public support for RMT’s fight for a guaranteed guard on the company’s services".

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“It is disgraceful that Merseyrail wrecked a golden opportunity to engage in serious talks with the union yesterday," said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

No official confirmation

The strike will be the 31st on Southern rail since the current dispute over who operates the doors on trains began. Despite the RMT's announcement, Southern had not heard from the union.

A spokesperson said: "We have received no official confirmation from the RMT and will review our response when we do."

Merseyrail operates trains from central Liverpool to Aintree station, the closest railway stop to the Grand National course.

Four trains an hour usually service the station from Liverpool, though this is stepped up on Grand National day when around 75,000 people pack into the Aintree racecourse. The Grand National attracts global TV audiences of up to 600m viewers.

A spokesperson for Merseyrail said: "The Saturday of the Grand National is one of our busiest times of the year, and we will make every attempt to ensure that we successfully move around the high volumes of people who choose to travel with us that day.

"Timetables for the day are currently being developed and will be published very soon."

The Jockey Club, which runs the Grand National, did not immediately respond to requests for comments but City A.M. understands it is considering what measures to put in place to mitigate disruption on race day.

Cynical

Cash continued: "RMT reps set out key points for discussion that could have moved the dispute forwards, Merseyrail kicked that conciliatory approach back in our faces and made it crystal clear that all that they are interested in is the union signing a surrender document which gives them a free hand to rip apart the safety culture on the railway.

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"It is that cynical and hostile stance from Merseyrail which has left us with no option but to put on this additional strike action. RMT recognises the severe impact that the action will have on Grand National Day but we are dealing with an employer that refuses to listen or engage with the union on the critical issue of safe rail operation and we ask the public to understand that we have no option but to take this high-profile action to force the company back to the negotiating table.

"There is ample time between now and April 8th for genuine talks to take place and for a safe and sustainable deal that protects the future safety across Merseyrail services to be put in place. The company should take up that offer of further talks as a matter of urgency."

He concluded: "Merseyrail are completely ignoring the clear wishes of their own passengers, who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of driver only operated trains on their network. That pig-headed attitude has forced the union’s hand and the idea that we would compromise on the fundamental issue of rail safety is absurd. The ball is now firmly in Merseyrail’s court."

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