A protester dressed up as a chicken wearing a mask of the Transport Secretary as part of a demonstration outside a conference he had been due to address.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) accused Chris Grayling of "chickening out" of attending a Northern Transport Summit in Manchester on Monday.
The union is embroiled in disputes with five train operators over the role of guards on trains, which have sparked a series of strikes over the past two years.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
A Transport Department spokesman said:
RMT members on Arriva Rail North (Northern) staged three 24-hour strikes last week and further action has not been ruled out.
The union believes the Department for Transport is behind the controversial plans to change the role of guards, claiming that the policy has "failed" as workers continue to take industrial action, backed by many passengers and politicians.
Mr Cash said:
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: