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.
Is the RMT still in dispute with Merseyrail?
Yes, it is, although a strike has not been held on the network since 8 April and to date, no further industrial action has been called.
What is the dispute about?
Merseyrail is introducing brand new trains for Merseyside in 2020. Being bought by Merseytravel, they will have some of the most advanced and innovative safety features seen in the UK and there will be significant enhancements for passengers. They will be ‘driver controlled operation’ or DCO, meaning drivers will be responsible for opening and closing the doors. At the moment, the guards do this. DCO is very common in the UK and across the world, and in place on the London Underground, Manchester Metrolink and Tyne & Wear Metro.
The new trains will no longer have guards, but will create around sixty on-board customer service positions. Ensuring passengers feel safe and secure continues to be the number one priority. The on-board teams will at key locations and times, to assist and reassure passengers. The RMT union, representing many Merseyrail guards, doesn’t support these changes to staffing arrangements on the new trains.
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, subject to successful negotiations with the unions.
Have strikes taken place on Merseyrail?
Yes, two have been held, one on 13 March and a second on 8 April, which was Grand National day. Each lasted for 24 hours.
What level of service were you able to provide on these days?
On 8 April, Grand National day, wewere able to run a comprehensive, Aintree-focused timetable, with trains every 7½ minutes between Liverpool city centre and Aintree at key times. We recorded 31,000 passenger journeys that day, which is in line with previous years. However, there were fewer or no trains operating on other lines.
On 13 March, we ran trains every hour from around 7am till 7pm on most, but not every line. Services did not call at all stations. All trains were made up of six carriages to ensure maximum capacity.
Do you expect further strikes on the network?
It is possible that the RMT union holds further strikes, but we haven’t been given additional dates yet.
How much notice will you give passengers of a strike day?
We will announce strike days as soon as the RMT notifies us. At the very least, this will be fourteen days in advance.
Does the dispute involve drivers, as well?
ASLEF, the union that represents many train drivers is not in dispute with Merseyrail, although drivers refused to cross picket lines on the two strike days that were held on Merseyrail.
How did you manage to run trains on strike days?
We have trained managers who worked as guards and used train managers to drive trains.
Can the trains run without guards?
No. The current trains require guards to open and close doors. The new trains will be Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) meaning drivers will be responsible for opening doors. On board customer service staff will focus on passenger safety and security.
Did you offer compensation to passengers on strike days?
As a gesture of goodwill, Merseyrail gave a voucher to passengers who had bought certain tickets valid on strikes days before the dates were announced. You can find information about this by contacting the Merseyrail customer relations team
What are you doing to resolve the dispute?
Merseyrail is keen to bring the dispute to an end. In the last round of negotiations with the RMT on 20 April, we brought a number of new initiatives to the table, including staffing trains after 8pm in the evening. However, the RMT was unwilling to explore any middle ground and the talks were ultimately unproductive. We remain committed to finding a resolution and are keen to get back around the table with our union colleagues.
Who can I contact for more information?
Full details of Merseyrail services and rail replacement buses are on the Merseyrail website here, on Twitter (@Merseyrail) and on posters at all stations or call Customer Relations on 0151 555 1111. A booklet covering timetable information and travel advice over the three-day Grand National festival is also available at stations.
For advice and information on alternative transport options visit www.merseytravel.gov.uk/railstrike
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