Rail staff from three firms across England have started 24-hour strikes in a dispute over the role of guards.
The RMT’s 30th strike day in its dispute with Southern over plans to make trains driver-only-operated (DOO) has spread to the north of England.
Guards and drivers working for Merseyrail and Northern are taking action over similar DOO proposals.
Management at all three companies have said they want a negotiated solution and deny jobs will be lost.
Up to 2,000 rail staff have walked out over the disputes.
Commuters at railway stations such as Manchester Victoria, Selby in North Yorkshire and Hunts Cross on Merseyside, which are all affected by the action, have reported stations being quieter than normal.
Merseyrail members have refused to work “rest days” since 6 March.
A bid by the company to derail the strike action on Thursday was rejected by the High Court in London.
Disruption on Monday
- Southern: A number of its train services will not run – including between Clapham and Milton Keynes and London and Brighton.
- Merseyrail: A reduced service will run with trains every 30 minutes on most, but not all, lines between 07:00 and 19:00, with a full break in service between 11:00 GMT and 14:00. The company said it was running fewer trains than it had originally advertised during the strike as “many drivers had chosen not to cross picket lines”. There are no trains running on the Ellesmere Port, Kirkby and Hunts Cross lines
- Northern: It is running 40% of its normal services, with trains operating on its busier routes between 07:00 and 19:00 but winding down from 17:00. The firm said it would run 300 rail replacement bus services.
Disruption to Merseyrail services include a full break in service from 11:00 to 14:00.
The company’s deputy managing director, Andy Heath, said the “much reduced” service on the planned timetable was due to train drivers choosing “not to cross picket lines”.
A statement on the Merseyrail website said: “We are sorry that we are unable to run the previously advertised timetable today.
“This is because train drivers, who are not part of the industrial action taking place on the Merseyrail network today, have decided not to cross RMT picket lines.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union’s position on DOO was “perfectly clear” and added it would “not agree to any introduction of DOO”.
He added there was “rock solid” support for the walkouts, including the Southern network action which “continues to hold firm in the fight for rail safety nearly a year on”.
Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent
It’s the South and the North today, but could this dispute keep spreading across England?
The government’s made it clear that it wants an expansion of “driver-only-operated” trains and that puts it at loggerheads with the unions.
The Department for Transport talks about introducing them in the next two franchises about to be awarded, South Western and West Midlands.
The unions say it’s a long-term ploy to get rid of all train guards and save money – they claim it puts passenger safety at risk.
But rail bosses argue it’s about modernising the service, freeing up the second on-board person to deal with passengers rather than closing the train doors.
Handing all the safety jobs to the driver means you don’t HAVE to have two people on every train before it can leave the station. That would shrink the power of the RMT, because more trains would be able to run if their guards went on strike in the future.
Arriva Rail North, which operates Northern trains, proposes to modernise the network by 2020 with the introduction of 281 new carriages, 243 upgraded trains, 2,000 extra services each week and better stations.
It has promised to protect jobs and pay and said it was “disappointed” by the strike.
Merseyrail plans to introduce a new fleet of 52 (DOO) trains from 2020 and said none of the permanent guards or guard managers would lose their jobs.
The company said it “pledged to do everything we can to bring the dispute to a satisfactory and swift conclusion”.
Southern has said the RMT union is “hell-bent on further strike misery”.
Its parent company, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), said the union chose to put its members “through even more pointless industrial action.”
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, said the industrial action was “completely unnecessary and will be very painful”.
He said: “Rail companies are willing to guarantee pay and jobs; new trains which customers desperately want enabling better services, no threat to safety and this is a very early stage of discussion.”
The Department for Transport said the strikes were “disappointing” and “unnecessary” and it is urging the RMT union to return to talks with operators.
All three strikes are due to end at midnight.
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Article source : Business Original Page