Northern Rail strikes: when, why and what will it mean for passengers?

Joanna Whitehead
Northern Rail train: istock/Getty Images

Northern Rail has confirmed that further strike action will significantly affect services this week.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are planning to strike on 19, 21 and 23 June in the ongoing dispute over driver-only operated trains.

The strikes are the latest in a wave of industrial action by RMT members working for Northern Rail and follow similar walkouts in January, September and March.

When is the strike?

The strike will take place on Tuesday 19, Thursday 21 and Saturday 23 June. The RMT has instructed its members not to book on any shifts between 00.01 hours and 23.59 hours on any of these dates.

What can passengers expect?

Northern Rail has confirmed that it is only able to operate a limited service. On 19 and 21 June (weekday strikes), the majority of available trains will typically operate between 7am and 7pm, with many last trains departing before 7pm. During these hours, the overall number of trains running is significantly reduced, with around 40 per cent of the usual number of services in operation.

These trains, and any replacement bus services, are expected to be extremely busy. Northern Rail has asked passengers to consider the necessity of their journey during this period.

Why are the strikes taking place?

Proposed changes to the role of the conductor and driver-only operated trains are at the heart of the dispute between the RMT and Northern Rail (Arriva Rail North).

The RMT insists that conductors on trains are integral to passenger safety, while Northern Rail says that proposed cuts to staff will reduce the amount of time spent at stations.

Mick Cash, the RMT general secretary, told The Independent: “We have seen over the past fortnight that Northern is a company which has declared war on its passengers and staff alike. RMT will not stand aside while the threat to axe safety critical guards from Northern services remains central to the company plans.

“This company has reduced the timetable to total chaos and the union will not allow them to slash the safety culture to ribbons in the same fashion.

“It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members on Arriva Rail North that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a clear-cut battle to put public safety before private profit.

”German-owned Northern Rail want to run half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access ‎to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately.

“RMT has agreed arrangements in Wales and Scotland that enshrine the guard guarantee. If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to have safe rail services it should be good enough for the rest of Britain.

“The failure to reach a solution to this dispute to date is solely down to the company and the union remains ready for genuine and meaningful talks.”

Is there any chance the strikes will be cancelled?

Talks are ongoing; keep an eye on social media channels for updates.