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Strike FAQs

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The RMT union, which represents many guards on our network, is currently in dispute with Merseyrail in relation to on-board staffing arrangements on the new fleet, set to be introduced on the network in 2020. 

This section is designed to inform you about the dispute, providing background information and practical advice.

When are the next strikes on Merseyrail?

The RMT will stage two days of strike action on Tuesday 3 and Thursday 5 October, coinciding with the first phase of work to transform Liverpool Lime Street mainline station by the end of 2018.

What level of service will you be running over these days?

Over the next few days, the amended timetable and details about alternative travel arrangements will be published. 

What is the significance of the strikes on these particular days?

Between 30 September and 22 October, Network Rail will embark on a major project to overhaul the station, helping cater for a predicted doubling of peak-time passengers by 2043.

No trains will enter or leave Lime Street mainline station for nine days, and many will be diverted to Liverpool South Parkway. Merseyrail will play a key role in transporting passengers, plenty from outside the local area, between that station and the centre of Liverpool during the work. 

Why are guards striking?

The dispute is related to onboard staffing arrangements on the new trains, which will enter service in 2020 and replace the current fleet.

The new trains will have some of the most advanced and innovative safety features seen in the UK, and will be faster, more comfortable and more spacious.

Drivers, not guards, will be responsible for opening and closing doors on the new trains, which is already common in the UK and across the world. It is standard practice on the London Underground, Manchester Metrolink and Tyne & Wear Metro.

The new trains will no longer need guards, although around sixty on-board customer service positions will be created. With passenger safety and security our number one priority, the on-board teams will work on the new trains at key locations and times to assist and reassure our customers.

The RMT union, representing many Merseyrail guards, doesn’t support these changes. 

What are you doing to resolve the dispute?

Merseyrail is always open to constructive dialogue with the RMT, and the two organisations have held several meetings over the last few months. Merseyrail is keen to find some middle ground, proposing the idea of a second person on every train after 8pm in the last meeting. Unfortunately, the RMT was not prepared to negotiate and rejected this offer. Despite that, we remain committed to resolving the dispute and are keen to get back around the table with our union colleagues. 

How many strikes have been held on Merseyrail?

There have been eight strike days so far. They were on 13 March, 8 April, 8, 10 and 23 July, 1, 3 and 4 September. 

What level of service were you able to provide on previous strike days?

We have generally run trains every half hour (as opposed to every 15 minutes) on five of our eight routes, all with six carriages, where normally it’s a combination of three and six carriages. Trains have been calling at select stations, not at every one. For a period of two-three hours in the middle of the day, there were no trains at all. Services ran from around 7am till 7pm. 

How did you run trains on strike days without guards?

As part of our contingency planning, we have trained managers to act as guards, and it was these managers that worked as guards on the strikes that have taken place. 

What will happen to guards when their jobs no longer exist?

Subject to successful negotiations with the unions, none of today’s guards or guards’ managers will be forced to leave Merseyrail’s employment. We have pledged that any member of staff who is currently employed as a guard and wants to stay at Merseyrail, will be guaranteed permanent employment in an alternative position once the new trains are introduced.

Have drivers been striking?

No, but they have not crossed picket-lines on any strike day to date, so driver managers have been driving trains. 

Has Merseyrail put on rail replacement buses during previous strikes and will you do the same for these two upcoming strikes?

Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to run rail replacement buses over previous strikes, but the commercial bus network in the Liverpool city region is extensive, with some services strengthened on key routes. A decision on whether we do so on 3 and 5 October will be made very soon. 

Will Merseyrail gain financially from the new trains, coming into service in 2020?

Merseyrail will make no additional money from the new trains – it’s held financially neutral. Any extra revenue generated by more passengers is passed to Merseytravel to help pay for them. Any cost savings, such as no longer having guards, (and having customer service staff on board instead) will be passed to Merseytravel to contribute towards the trains.

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