Northern rail: Strikes halted by ‘breakthrough’

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Northern Rail

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Northern, which is also known as Arriva Rail North, is the main train operator in northern England

Strikes on Northern rail have been suspended after a “major breakthrough” in a long-running dispute over plans to axe guards on trains, a union said.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) have taken 47 days of industrial action and were due to walk out on the next two Saturdays.

Passengers have faced huge disruption since the dispute began two years ago.

The RMT said the company had now offered a guarantee of a conductor on all trains.

The union claimed imposing driver-only services was a risk to public safety.

‘Break the deadlock’

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said his members had shown “resilience and determination”.

He said he wanted to thank the travelling public for their “extraordinary support”.

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RMT members held pickets in Newcastle

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool Mayor Steve Rotheram had also been important in allowing us to “break the deadlock”, he added.

Mr Cash said: “Today’s offer of a guarantee of a conductor on all services throughout the duration of the franchise, including the new fleet, is the substantial progress we have been pushing for.

“[It] has allowed RMT’s executive to take the decision to suspend the current action and allow for further talks to now take place with all stakeholders around the operational details.”

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Pat Draper

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RMT union members on the picket line outside Wigan Wallgate Station

Mr Burnham welcomed the news, saying keeping guards on trains will “help to keep trains safer and more accessible for everybody”.

However, he added while it was a “step forward” it was “not yet a final agreement” and hopes the two sides can reach agreement soon.

Northern’s managing director David Brown said the firm “warmly welcomed” the suspension of strike action, which was “good news for customers and businesses across the North”.

“We have been very clear in these discussions that there will be a conductor on all our trains now and into the future,” he said.

“We are looking forward to further positive talks with RMT about operational models moving ahead so that we can resolve their dispute and bring it to an end.”

However, it was “unfortunately too late” to reintroduce a full timetable before this Saturday, he said.

He said Northern would run about 700 services on Saturday.

In response, RMT regional organiser Daren Ireland said that was “madness”, adding it was the “nonsense of a privatised industry”.

He said: “Our members will be working normally on Saturday and it is up to the Northern management to get their act together to run the full timetable.”

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