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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

IoM ferry crashes into pier causing long delays

Credit: Steam Packet Co.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's ferry the Manannan crashed into Douglas Harbour last night.

Passengers travelling to Liverpool were facing delays after the 07:30 sailing and the 11:15 return crossings were cancelled.

The operator said the Manannan "made contact" with the quay while attempting to berth at about 22:00.

No passengers were injured, but people have expressed their annoyance via social media.

Following last night’s incident involving fast craft Manannan, staff from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company workshop have been working on repairing the damage.

The company anticipates that this work will be completed by early this evening and, following the necessary approval by Isle of Man Ship Registry surveyors, Manannan will then operate to the following revised schedule:

Friday 18th August

Douglas to Liverpool 15.00hrs will now depart at 20.00hrs and passengers are asked to check in no later than 19.00hrs.

Liverpool to Douglas 19:15hrs will now depart at 00.30hrs Saturday 19th August and passengers are asked to check in no later than 23.00hrs Friday 18th August.

Ben-my-Chree sailings are operating as scheduled and it is anticipated that Manannan schedules will return to normal tomorrow.

In addition, freighter Clipper Ranger will be brought in to operate an extra sailing tonight, which will create space for passenger vehicles on the Ben-my-Chree’s service which departs Heysham at 02:15hrs, Saturday 19th August.

The Steam Packet Company apologises for any inconvenience caused by this rescheduling.

– Spokesperson from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company

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Drivers advised to avoid northbound M6 in Cheshire while repairs are carried out

Highways England are advising drivers to avoid the northbound M6 in Cheshire while bridge repairs are carried out on Thelwall Viaduct.

The motorway is closed between junction 19 at Knutsford, with drivers being diverted onto the A556, M56, M60 and M62, re-joining the M6 at junction 21a (Croft Interchange).

The three lanes have been closed on the northbound carriageway since this afternoon after damage was spotted on one of the expansion joints. The purpose of the joints are to help the viaduct deal with movement caused by a change in temperature or the weight of heavy vehicles.

One lane remains open past the scene for local traffic travelling between junctions 20 and 21. The closure is expected to remain in place into the evening while repairs are carried out.

Drivers are being encouraged to allow extra time for their journeys and to consider using alternative routes.

Live traffic information is being provided by Highways England at www.highways.gov.uk/traffic-information, on Twitter at @highwaysnwest and on roadside electronic signs.

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

A new ITV series is taking a look a life in the cockpit

Credit: ITV Granada

A new ITV series is taking a look a life in the cockpit.

They've followed a group of trainee easyJet pilots from their exams all the way through to their first commercial flight with passengers on board.

Pilot Cornelius Wilson has just started flying out of Manchester Airport. He came in to talk to us about how he copes with the pressure of flying hundreds of people:

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M53 in Merseyside closed at J2 and J3 after crash

The M53 in Merseyside is closed between junctions 2 and 3 after a crash involving a car and a gas pipe.

Emergency services were called just before 5.30am to reports that a BMW car had collided with a gas pipe on Neville Close, Noctorum. No one is believed to be seriously injured.

A cordon has been put in place and motorists are advised to find alternative routes.

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