1. ITV Report

Nine days of Merseyrail strikes called off after sides reach 'major breakthrough'

Planned strikes on Merseyrail have been suspended after a Credit: Press Association

Planned strikes on Merseyrail have been suspended after a "major breakthrough" in the guards-on-trains dispute.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union were due to stage a series of 24-hour walkouts in the coming weeks in the long-running row over the role of guards.

The union said all action had been suspended after the company tabled an offer it said guaranteed a guard on trains, as well as their safety-critical role.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

Today's breakthrough in the long-running Merseyrail guards' dispute has been achieved after nearly three years of hard political, industrial and public campaigning and I want to pay tribute to RMT members who have been prepared to put themselves on the line at significant personal cost to defend safety and accessibility on the railway.

"The progress that has been achieved has been extraordinary. We have pushed back from the threat of wholesale Driver Only Operation across Merseyrail to not only a guarantee of a guard on every train but a guarantee that that guard will retain a safety-critical role in the despatch process, including the most operationally safe method of guards closing the doors at the platform/train interface.

"That is a significant development that will resonate throughout the rail industry."

– RMT general secretary Mick Cash

Andy Heath, Merseyrail's managing director, said:

At no time in our many days of negotiations with the RMT did we ever lose sight of the fact that the new Merseyrail trains will be one of the best metro railway trains in the national rail network.

"These new trains deliver everything that our customers have asked for through the design of a modern interior, safety features that have responded to feedback from a variety of user panels and industry bodies across the UK and of course the sliding step and platform level boarding maximising the accessibility for all our customers.

"I am pleased that after consideration the RMT's National Executive Committee have endorsed the latest proposal in principal and at the same time have given our customers, shoppers and traders the benefit of the lead up to Christmas being strike free by suspending the planned nine days of strikes.

"We will now progress with the next phase of discussions to finalise an agreement so that the RMT can consult with its guard members before proceeding towards implementation."

– Andy Heath, Merseyrail's managing director