Passengers suffer rail strikes on Grand National day

The strike affected people getting to and from the Grand National at Aintree. Credit: PA

Rail passengers, including racegoers attending the Grand National, suffered a day of travel disruption with workers at three rail companies on strike.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Merseyrail, Arriva Trains North and Southern staged a 24-hour walkout amid bitter rows over staffing and driver-only trains.

The strike at Arriva and Merseyrail coincided with the UK's biggest horse race, which saw many of the tens of thousands of racegoers travelling to Aintree by train.

Picket lines were mounted outside stations and union members were said to be solidly supporting the action.

Members of the drivers' union Aslef refused to cross picket lines.

Merseyrail brought in a team of managers to provide a service before and after the race between Liverpool city centre and Aintree, and said it transported 12,000 people to the steeplechase, compared to 18,000 in 2016.

Hunt's Cross railway station in Liverpool was deserted last month as Merseyrail workers went on strike. Credit: PA

There were fewer or no trains on other parts of the network while rail replacement buses ran on some lines.

The RMT paraded an advertising billboard through Liverpool and Aintree explaining why the union was taking strike action to defend safety-critical guards.

The RMT paraded an advertising billboard through Liverpool and Aintree. Credit: RMT/PA

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: "Support for all three strikes today is rock solid with pickets out in force and morale high as our members on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail continue the fight for rail safety.

"It is down to all three companies to now get round the table with union negotiators and reach settlements based on the guarantee of a guard and a safe railway for all."

There is little sign of a breakthrough in the disputes spreading across the rail industry.

Rail passengers have faced growing disruption to services amid bitter disputes in the industry. Credit: PA

The Merseyrail and Arriva disputes are over new trains coming into service in 2020 which will be driver-only, while the Southern row is now a year old, with Saturday's strike marking the RMT's 31st day of action.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, managing director Merseyrail, accused the union of trying to "scupper (the) iconic (Grand National) event and create misery for the tens of thousands of people who look forward to it all year".

Arriva Trains north said its services were "significantly" reduced, with the last trains leaving Liverpool Lime Street between 7.02pm and 8.16pm, though it had added six trains to help racegoers get home.