Rail chief pledges to keep Calderdale moving during two-day strike

Sharon Keith, regional director of Norther
Sharon Keith, regional director of Norther

A rail boss has pledged to keep Calderdale and the North moving as a fresh wave of train strikes looms next week.

Members of the RMT union are staging two days of walkouts today (Monday) and Thursday over claims that Northern Rail - which manages services across Yorkshire and the North - is continuing to “snub meaningful talks” in a long running row over the expansion of driver-only trains and safety concerns linked to the move.

The protest will take the total to 17 days strike action so far in the row, which is now into its second year.

READ MORE: Northern Rail strike: Limited services and disruption due to 24-hour walkout by RMT union members

The union says it has demanded “tripartite” talks with the company and the Department of Transport but “has received no positive response to that call”.

Sharon Keith, regional director of Northern, said the firm was “working incredibly hard to run as many services as possible” today and Thursday, with 70 per cent of normal services between 7am and 7pm running, and 1,400 trains in total.

“We would encourage customers to check the timetables before travelling,” she said.

“We are incredibly sorry for the disruption this is causing our customers. We understand it has a significant impact on them and the wider economy of the North.

“We would encourage the RMT to come back to the table without pre-conditions and enter into meaningful dialogue.

“They need to step away from what is now a national agenda and focus on resolving this for the North.”

READ MORE: Train strikes explained: Why more action is taking place to protect the role of guards

She insisted that driver controlled operation - where the driver opens and closes the train doors - is “very separate from staffing of trains”, and a “safe method of operation” which is commonly used across the rail network.

And asked to reassure Leeds travellers, she added: “For Leeds passengers, we are prioritising those very busy lines of route, of which many come into Leeds. So Leeds is very well served on strike days.

“But there is disruption.

“So we would encourage passengers to check before they travel.”

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach a negotiated settlement with Northern Rail over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces.

“No one should be in any doubt, this dispute is about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.

“It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.”