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Northern Rail staff set for strikes

Northern train at a platform

Rail union RMT has called for its members on Northern Rail to stage three 24-hour walk-outs later this month as passengers continue to be plagued by disruption.

Staff will go on strike for 24 hours from 0001 on 19, 21 and 23 June in a continuing row over proposed changes to the role of train guards.

RMT says driver-only operation of trains puts passengers’ safety at risk “in the name of increased profits”, with general secretary Mick Cash saying Northern has “declared war on its passengers and staff alike”.

The strikes were announced last week, prompting commuters to express their outrage on social media over the possibility of even more disruption on their lines.

Northern customers are still facing numerous delays, cancellations and shortened trains following a disastrous start to its new timetable. The company blames a shortage of drivers for the ongoing problems. 

The disuption prompted transport secretary Chris Grayling to launch an inquiry into what went wrong with the timetable change and call on train companies to develop a clear compensation programme for affected passengers.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has been vocal about his outrage at the train companies for the "unacceptably poor" service. 

Cash added: “This company has reduced the timetable to total chaos and the union will not allow them to slash the safety culture to ribbons in the same fashion.

“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.”

In response to RMT’s announcement, Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Northern, said: “We have apologised repeatedly and extensively to customers, are working urgently on our additional customer compensation offer, and our energy and focus is on providing a better service for customers.

“The May timetable problems and the latest RMT strike action will not deter us from delivering our modernisation plans for customers – £500 million of new trains which are currently under construction, better stations and more services by 2020.

“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 RMT ending its strike action.”

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