Union sorry for strike on Blackpool line's planned opening day

Network Rail staff  working at Layton Station as the electrification work nears completion
Network Rail staff working at Layton Station as the electrification work nears completion
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The first day of service of the reopened Blackpool North rail line looks set to be hit by strikes.

The RMT union has scheduled two one day strikes - on March 26 and 29 – in its ongoing battle against driver only train operation.

The union said it was sorry that it would hit Blackpool after the line has been closed for so long, but the action was to preserve safety conditions for travellers who would be using the line.

RMT regional organiser Craig Johnston said; “There was no intention to spoil Blackpool’s day, these strikes will cover the region from Newcastle right down to Merseyside.

“We have hit an impasse the company refuses to negotiate but these are safety critical issues which will affect passengers.”

He said the company wants to get rid of guards on 50 per cent of trains.

He said guards are trained in 30 different operational competencies such as signalling, evacuation processes derailment actions and security.

“They have to pass an exam every two years and yet the company thinks it can do without them and at a time when anti-social behaviour and recorded crime is increasing.”

General Secretary Mick Cash (pictured) said: “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 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.”

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director said; “Our modernisation plans are well under way with almost £500m of new trains under construction, 90 refurbished trains in service, £7m spent so far on improving our stations, extra services from May, and more to come by 2020.

“We urge RMT to move away from its nationally co-ordinated campaign and allow its local representatives to engage in meaningful discussions with us on how we better serve customers on-board.

We are still prepared to offer unprecedented guarantees of jobs and pay reviews until 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that if RMT ends strike action.”

See also: Rail route re-opens but electrification hits problems