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Fresh strikes planned in dispute over driver-only trains

A picket at Lime Street during a strike in July. Credit: ITV Granada

Rail workers in the north are to launch a fresh wave of strikes in long-running disputes over staffing and driver-only trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Arriva Rail North will walk out on Friday September 1 and Monday September 4.

Strikes will be held at Merseyrail on September 1, 3 and 4.

The union accused the companies and the Government of pressing ahead with controversial plans to extend driver-only operation.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash had a meeting with Arriva Rail North on Friday but accused the company of "intransigence", adding:

"The responsibility for the inevitable disruption lies wholly with the company.

"We are angry and frustrated that Arriva continue to fail to face up to the facts and also continue to ignore a perfectly reasonable union proposal to invite the DfT (Department for Transport) to join us in round-table talks aimed at finding a solution.

"The public, who support RMT's campaign for a guarantee of a guard on their trains, will be appalled that Arriva Rail North have failed yet again to offer any kind of progress whatsoever in the talks and have instead opted to try and bulldoze through their plans regardless.

"It is disgraceful that Merseyrail continue to refuse all reasonable attempts by the union to settle this dispute.

"Merseyrail have repeatedly kicked all conciliatory approaches by RMT negotiators 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."

– RMT general secretary Mick Cash

Alan Chaplin, Northern's managing director, said:

"Following our meeting with RMT's general secretary, there is no doubt that the trade union calling two days of strikes timed to coincide with people across the North returning to school, college and work after the holidays, will damage the region's economy, significantly disrupt our customers' lives, and impact local businesses.

"Northern is prepared to guarantee jobs and current pay for all our conductors for the next eight years, until the end of our franchise. Our offers to discuss every detail on the future responsibilities and training for on-board colleagues have been rejected by RMT.

"Northern is modernising with new and updated trains, faster and more frequent services, and better stations from now until 2020. We want to make changes to the on-board colleague role to make it fit for the future, better supporting customers on trains and at stations."

– Alan Chaplin, Northern's managing director

RMT Union: Rail passengers are 'paying more for less'

Protests are being held in Manchester and Liverpool Credit: ITV Granada

Protests are being held in Manchester and Liverpool as new rail fares are announced. Rail Unions say passengers will 'pay more for less' with fare hikes of almost 4% expected. The fares will come into force in the New Year.

Michelle Rodgers from the RMT Union said previous fare increases haven't resulted in more investment for rail services.

Rail unions have also stepped up their calls for the railway industry to be bought back into public ownership, with Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union leader Mick Cash calling it a "kick in the teeth" for passengers.

He said:

"The huge hike in fares confirmed today is another kick in the teeth for passengers who already fork out colossal sums to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.

"With over three quarters of Britain's railways now in the hands of foreign states these huge sums of money aren't being invested in essential upgrades and modernisation here, they are being siphoned off to subsidise transport services over the Channel.

"It's no wonder we are a global laughing stock.

"The only solution to the Great British Private Rail Rip-Off is public ownership and an end to this Government sponsored racketeering."

– Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union leader Mick Cash

Research by the RMT and the TUC has shown rail fares have been increasing at twice the rate of pay rises in recent years.

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, the independent transport user watchdog, said:

"Yet again, passengers, now majority funders of the railway, face fare rises next January.

"Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score - just one third according to our latest survey.

"So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January.

"Why is the Government not using its preferred measure of inflation: the one that is used to determine wages and pension increases, and one which is often lower than RPI? Why not use the Consumer Prices Index for rail fares too? Passengers deserve a fairer deal."

– David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus

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Virgin's interim franchise agreement

Virgin to be awarded interim franchise to run West Cost Main Line Credit: PA

Rail operator Virgin has been asked to continue running the troubled West Coast Main Line for another few months, the Government said today.

The temporary fix has been proposed by the Department for Transport after its embarrassing U-turn over the award of a new franchise earlier this month.

Virgin's current franchise is due to end on December 9 but talks are under way about it remaining as operator for between nine and 13 months while a competition is run for an interim franchise agreement.

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