Outside Liverpool Lime Street station this morning, a troop of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union workers are on strike. They are protesting Arriva Rail North’s decision to axe on-board guards on Northern Rail trains in 2020, leaving the driver responsible for the safety of all passengers. Strike action will mainly affect trains after 5pm.
Alan Gibbons, secretary of the Liverpool Walton Constituency Labour Party (CLP), was present in support of the industrial action. This morning, he told The Sphinx about the dangers he believes guard cuts could bring about:
“RMT guards have prevented sexual assault on a number of occasions, they have evacuated trains when there have been things like fires, they have intervened against anti-social behaviour,” says Mr. Gibbons.
The strike is part of a long-running dispute between the RMT and Arriva (owner of Northern Rail), with today being the 45th strike day over this issue. Strikes are planned for the next four Saturdays after this one.
In response, Northern Railway managing director David Brown has described the strike action as “needless.”
“The Department for Transport and Transport for the North have guaranteed that all current conductors will continue to work in modernised on-board roles on all trains to provide customer service,” says Mr Brown in response to upcoming strikes.
The RMT, however, dispute this claim, accusing Arriva of “misleading the public” with “lies about bogus guarantees” whilst actually planning to run most of their trains with no staff on board except the driver.
The RMT are also protesting against Chris Grayling, the Conservative Transport Secretary, with a banner bearing the words #FailingGrayling and calling for an end to rail privatisation. When speaking to The Sphinx this morning, Mr. Gibbons described Grayling as an “absolutely hopeless” transport secretary who is “not trying to get the guards and the employers together to resolve the issue.”
With no sign of a resolution to this conflict, it looks like it’s full steam ahead for the strikes in the foreseeable future.
For those travelling to Manchester who are looking to avoid the risk of delays or crowded services as a result of the industrial action, Transpennine Express services are not affected by the strike.
Featured image: RMT members and supporters on the steps of Liverpool Lime Street Station on Saturday 19 January (Credit: Olly Wicks)