THE RMT rail union is stepping up strike action over plans by two rail companies to remove or redeploy the guard.
Drivers who work for Northern (Arriva Rail North) and Merseyrail voted overwhelmingly for a 24 hour walkout on March 13 after Merseyrail confirmed that the new fleet of 52 four-car trains it has ordered from Stadler will no longer need guards from 2020.
Although Northern has ordered a total of 98 new diesel and electric trains from CAF, the company has not specifically said whether guards will be dispensed with, but as the rail industry modernises, providing the option for drivers to open and close doors is on the increase with new orders.
Merseyrail’s managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde said: “Every industry needs to modernise, otherwise its future is at risk. The advanced technology on the new trains means they will no longer require traditional guards.”
The company did apply for an injunction to halt the strike but the High Court rejected it.
However, Northern was more cautious, deputy managing director Richard Allen said: “As our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages, it is a shame that RMT has announced strike action. We want to protect jobs and pay, and during our recent discussions we offered to consult fully with our people, customers and key stakeholders.”
Also striking on March 13 will be Southern drivers. Their on-going dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway is around a year old, and this strike will be the 30th in an on going series.
The exact number of trains Merseyrail and Northern will cancel is unclear, but Northern estimated it would run 40 per cent of services, drafting in rail replacement buses where available.
• Prompt action by a Merseyrail guard who realised a diabetic passenger was hypoglycaemic attack is said to have saved the life of a male passenger on March 7. The guard recognised the signs and summoned medical help.