RMT union has held a series of one-day strikes since spring 2017 after Merseyrail said its new £460m train fleet would no longer require both a driver and a guard. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail’s next generation of trains will have two members of staff on every service after Merseyrail and the RMT Union reached agreement in their long-running dispute.
The union has held a series of one-day strikes since spring 2017 after Merseyrail said its new £460m train fleet, due to come into service in 2021, would no longer require both a driver and a guard.
The rail operator promised that all of the existing guards would be redeployed into other roles but the RMT insisted the loss of the second member of staff would compromise the safety of passengers – a message that resonated with large swathes of the Merseyside public.
In the last few weeks industrial action was put on hold while both sides agreed to talks via the conciliation service ACAS.
A joint statement on Friday afternoon, issued by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Merseyrail and the RMT, said an it had been “agreed in principle” the new fleet of trains will have a second member of staff on board each service.
However, it added the agreement was “subject to the provision and approval of an appropriate, affordable and sustainable funding package” – and it may mean that fares would have to rise to cover the costs.
The statement added: “Productivity proposals have come forward from the ACAS process that will cover some of the required funding, however additional means will also need to be considered by all parties, which could include an enhanced crackdown on fare evasion and increased fares.
“The design of the new trains proposes that the door control and dispatch of the trains will transfer to the driver. No one currently employed as a guard will lose their employment as a result of the introduction of the new fleet in 2021.”
It also said a detailed agreement will be drawn up over the next few months and that there would be no more strike action during this period.
Andy Heath, Merseyrail managing director said: “Merseyrail and its shareholders have given our support to this agreement as we have always been clear that any dispute between us and the RMT will only be resolved through talks. Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement of that fact.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, added: “Today’s agreement in principle is an important and significant development in respect of RMT’s long running campaign to retain a guaranteed second, safety-critical member of staff on Merseyrail trains.
“I want to pay tribute to RMT members for their resilience and solidarity throughout this campaign. We now await a fully-formed and detailed set of proposals that the we can take back to our executive and our members.”