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'Solid' RMT action over driver-only trains

9 April 2017

Merseyrail train at Chester. Photo El Pollock (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Transport union RMT has described its strikes in Southern, Merseyrail and Arriva Trains North on Saturday 8 April as “solid”.

In Merseyrail, every single member of the drivers’ union Aslef refused to cross the picket line. Merseyrail was able to cobble together a non-stop service from Liverpool to get race-goers to the Grand National at Aintree – but couldn’t run any services at all elsewhere.

Arriva Trains North drafted in scabs including from other rail companies to run a skeleton service, which stopped from 5pm.

RMT members chose to strike on Grand National day to get maximum publicity for their campaign of opposition to plans to introduce driver-only-operated trains, and their fight to ensure the safety of rail passengers by keeping guards on trains.

The union warned that Arriva Trains North is looking to take guards off 50 per cent of its services, while on Merseyrail it is 100 per cent.


General Secretary Mick Cash angrily stated that the RMT “remains deeply concerned that the rail companies are winging it on safety by encouraging passengers to turn up to travel on either non-existent services or skeleton operations, staffed by managers and cobbled together as a PR stunt”.

The strikes came shortly after Aslef members once again rejected a settlement to their long-running dispute with Southern over driver-only trains.

Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said: “As train drivers, we want a safe, efficient, and modern railway delivering for passengers and business in Britain. What we don’t want to see is the safety of our railway compromised by a ruthless desire to cut costs and increase profits for the privatised train operating companies.”

Another rail union, TSSA, has also issued a statement about driver-only trains. Organising Director Steve Coe said, “The issues…are not just about who opens and closes the doors, they are about passenger safety and security. At a time when passenger numbers are at record levels and overcrowded carriages common, making train drivers solely responsible for passenger safety and security will only increase risk. Drivers simply can’t assist passengers getting on and off trains, (or) deal with assaults or spot potential suspect devices while the train is moving…” 

The RMT will be announcing further strikes shortly.