Rail passengers across the North West are facing their third day of disruption in a week because of strike action by staff.
RMT Union members on Merseyrail and Northern Rail are walking out for the 13th time in a long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains.
Merseyrail insists it wants to talk to the union. Northern says it is aiming to maintain services today.
Rail users are facing more disruption this morning as the second day of strike action this week gets underway.
RMT members on Merseyrail and Northern Rail are walking out in a dispiute over the role of guards on trains.
Merseyrail say they want dialogue with the union and Northern say they'll aim to maintain services.
We are doing everything we can to keep our customers on the move during the three days of industrial action affecting our network.
We are still working to determine the exact services we will be able to operate, but those trains that do run will be on an amended timetable and are likely to be extremely busy.
In the past customers have responded well by planning ahead and in many cases making changes to their usual journey when necessary. We are confident that by continuing to plan ahead, our customers, both local and from further afield, will be able to go about their business, whether they choose to travel by rail, bus, ferry or car
Rail passengers in Manchester this morning had mixed feelings about three days of strike action which the RMT union has planned for this week.
Union members from Merseyrail and Northernrail are protesting over the role of guards on trains.
Some passengers we spoke to supported their decision, others were frustrated at a lack of progress in talks:
The RMT union is calling for a special summit to break the deadlock.
The RMT union is holding three days of strike action this week in a dispute over the role of guards on the trains and fears for "rail safety".
Union members at Northern and Rail and Merseyrail will strike on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
A Department for Transport spokesman said the five franchises will "keep passengers moving" during the strikes.
Here's how you could be affected:
- Severely reduced service across the network
- Tickets being accepted on other services
- No trains running on the Kirkby, Ellesmere Port or Hunts Cross lines
- Services that do operate will run between 07:00 and 19:00
- There will be a break in the middle of the day where no trains will run
- Severely reduced service across the network
- Replacement bus service running at Manchester Piccadilly, Preston and at Chester
- Tickets being accepted on other services
- Northern are operating around 65% of their normal timetable
- Services that do operate, will run between 07:00 and 19:00
Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and the Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson have written a joint letter to the RMT and Merseyrail, calling on both sides to engage in immediate, independent conciliation without conditions.
It follows a series of strikes by members of the RMT union concerning the long- running dispute over the role of guards and driver- only trains.
Leaders of the other five districts within the Liverpool City Region are also included in the joint letter, which calls on both parties to find a settlement of their dispute as early as possible.
The letter states:
We are concerned that this dispute is continuing, and feel that only meaningful dialogue and a willingness to engage in detailed negotiation can find a way forward. We are equally concerned that statements emanating from both sides only serve to entrench positions and have the potential to make it more difficult for sides to come to a negotiated settlement.”
Steve Rotheram said:
We have been in contact with both sides to encourage dialogue and resolution, but it is now our belief that an independent process of conciliation without conditions could achieve a breakthrough. The dispute has gone on for long enough and for the benefit of the public, both parties need to break the deadlock.”
Read the letter in full:
Dear Mick and Jan,
As the political leaders in theLiverpool City Region, we are writing collectively in light of the on-goingindustrial action on the Merseyrail network.
We are concerned that this disputeis continuing, and feel that only meaningful dialogue and a willingness toengage in detailed negotiation can find a way forward.
We are equally concerned thatstatements emanating from both sides only serve to entrench positions and havethe potential to make it more difficult for sides to come to a negotiatedsettlement.
We are in no doubt that with themassive investment in the new trains, the Merseyrail network will be enhancedsignificantly.
We understand, however, that changecan be difficult for all parties involved, but with three years before the newfleet arrives there is more than enough time for detailed negotiations to finda mutually acceptable agreement.
We appreciate this may requiremovement from all sides, but believe this would be in the best interests of thetravelling public.
We are calling for both parties inthe dispute, Merseyrail and the RMT, to agree to engage in a process ofindependent conciliation, starting with no pre-conditions, with the intent of seekingto find a negotiated settlement as soon as practicable.
We look forward to your response.
Metro Mayor ofthe Liverpool City Region
Cllr Rob Polhill
Leader of HaltonCouncil
Cllr Andy Moorhead
Leader ofKnowsley Council
Cllr Ian Maher
Leader of SeftonCouncil
Cllr Barrie Grunewald
Leader of StHelens Council
Cllr Phil Davies
Leader of WirralCouncil
Workers on Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North are set to strike on November 8, in a long running dispute over the role of guards.
The union said it had made "every single effort" to resolve the disputes, accusing the train operators of "suspending" normal industrial relations.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces and we are left with no option but to confirm a further phase of industrial action in early November.
"It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.
"This suspension of normal industrial relations by the employers has to end if we are to make progress towards a solution that guarantees safe rail travel for all.
"RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory Government that is interfering in these disputes to block negotiated settlements.
"It is outrageous that Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip-off the British passenger to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.
"RMT is demanding today that the Government lift the central blockade on talks, allow us to negotiate freely with their contractors and give us the opportunity to pursue the objective of a guard guarantee that puts British passenger safety before the rank exploitation of our rail network by overseas operators who are laughing all the way to the bank."
Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Arriva Rail North (Northern), said:
Northern is committed to delivering new trains, faster journeys and better stations for customers.
"We are prepared to guarantee jobs and pay for conductors for the next eight years if we can reach agreement on how our colleagues deliver better customer service using those fantastic new facilities.
"RMT is striking yet again at Northern and on several other train operators. We remain available for talks that are meaningful and clearly focused on how we deliver better customer service in the future."
A fresh wave of strikes on Merseyrail will go ahead after talks between union leaders and politicians failed to achieve a breakthrough to a bitter dispute over staffing and the role of guards.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on Friday, Sunday and Monday, following stoppages earlier in the year.
The union said it wanted to ask Labour politicians on Merseyside "which side are you on?" after talks with officials, including Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham.
RMT leader Mick Cash said:
"RMT is bitterly disappointed that our efforts to make progress towards a resolution of the Merseyrail guards and safety dispute have been blocked off once again and as a result, the action on Friday, Sunday and Monday goes ahead as planned.
"It was made clear to us that the reason for axing the safety-critical guards on Merseyrail trains is entirely cash-led. At a time when this company is trousering £16 million in profits from passengers on Merseyside, it is disgraceful that they cannot find the £5 million that it would cost to keep the guards on the trains, keep the public safe and maintain disabled access to these lifeline services.
"Labour nationally has set out a clear policy of opposing the great privatised rail rip-off and the profit-led extension of driver only operation.
"RMT has had fantastic support from a large number of Labour MPs, councillors and local parties on Merseyside for our current campaign to keep the guards on our trains and we intend to build on that as we step up the pressure."
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."
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."
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.
"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."
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."
The RMT union says talks aimed at resolving a dispute over the role of guards on Merseyrail have "collapsed", threatening more strikes.Read the full story ›