Super strike Saturday: Minimal disruption for racegoers as unions hail "rock solid" pickets

Oliver Gill
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An RMT Merseyrail picket line earlier this morning

A triple-whammy of strikes by Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) rail guards today has been blasted as "short-term opportunism" by the trade body representing train companies.

Guards on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail are staging a walkout today as part ongoing battle over the future role of guards on trains including who operates the train doors.

Talks between the RMT and train operators to ward off industrial action broke down earlier this week.

Read more: Grand National 2017: How to avoid super strike Saturday when travelling

Fears rose that one of the UK's best-loved sporting events, horse racing's Grand National at Aintree, could be undermined with disrupted rail services preventing punters getting to the race.

But reports today on social media indicate while trains are busier than usual, people are able to get to the racecourse.

Paul Plummer, the chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group didn't mince his words. He said:

“The railway helps to support the Northern economy all year round, including for the Grand National, an iconic event watched around the world.

"Whilst the industry is pulling out every stop to minimise disruption, the RMT’s action is bad for passengers, bad for ordinary punters, and bad for the economy.

The RMT needs to get back around the table. Britain deserves a long term plan to improve services, not short-term opportunism.

Read more: Southern rail: We'll run a normal service during Saturday's strike

The RMT said the strikes were "rock solid" and general secretary Mick Cash said he was ready to discuss matters with the owners of the rail networks.

"It is down to all three companies to now get round the table with union negotiators and reach settlements based on the guarantee of a guard and a safe railway for all.

RMT remains deeply concerned that the rail companies are winging it on safety by encouraging passengers to turn up to travel on either non-existent services or skeleton operations, staffed by managers and cobbled together as a PR stunt.

"RMT will be closely monitoring safety issues today and we repeat our call to Southern, Northern and Merseyrail to cut out the window-dressing and the spin and concentrate their efforts on negotiating agreements with the union."

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