Merseyrail strike held over driver-only trains

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Merseyrail Strike at Lime Street. Pic by Paul-Stuart Greenough © JMU Journalism

Train staff at Merseyrail and Northern Rail have gone on strike today as their fight to stop around 200 job changes continues.

A £460 million development into new trains and new staff systems will mean there will be no guards on carriages from 2020 and the dispute has led to industrial action and widespread disruption.

Currently the on-board train guard operates the opening and closing of carriage doors, but the new investment will mean this responsibility will be down to the train driver alone.

Staff members in parts of England who are part of the trade union RMT have gone on strike, but all other staff are working as normal. This will result in limited train running times throughout the day.

Merseyrail said that whilst they expect trains to run to the new timetable, with the last services running at around 7pm, there could still be last minute alterations, affecting up top 100,000 passengers during the 24-hour strike. They have advised passengers to check the Merseyrail Twitter page for advice on planning their journeys.

Some of the 200 guards with Merseyrail say they are worried that they could lose their jobs, but Merseyrail insisted no-one would be made redundant and their jobs would be moved to a different area by adding new drivers positions and around 60 new on-board customer service positions.

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Commuter Jack Crowley, 36, Bootle told JMU Journalism: “I don’t get the train to and from work, but as I finish at about 8 o’clock tonight, I can imagine this will mean a lot more traffic on the roads which will be a bit of a hassle for me.

“I understand though. If I worked for Merseyrail, and thought that I or my colleagues could be losing their jobs, I would absolutely be going on strike today too, so I don’t mind the inconvenience or a longer journey home.”

Merseyrail described the new fleet as “affordable” and said that they would be in public ownership. They added that the region deserves new trains that will be safer, more modern and faster.

However, Darren Island, RMT Regional Organiser, told JMU Journalism: “We just want employers to see sense. We have to take industrial action because Merseyrail and other employers will cut standards and safety.”

When a wall collapsed in Lime Street in early March, a train guard had to evacuate more than a hundred passengers, without whom the situation would have been much more difficult, according to picketers who spoke to JMU Journalism.

The trade union has said that there is no need for a dispute as they have reached an agreement with train firm, Transpennine Express, which has kept the guarantee of a guard on every service and hopes that other train firms will follow suit.