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Merseyrail staff set to strike in driver-only trains row

Merseyrail train Image copyright Merseytravel
Image caption The dispute relates to the role of guards on Merseyrail's new fleet for 2021

Workers on Merseyrail plan to hold nine strikes in the long-running dispute over train guards.

RMT union members said they will stage 24-hour walkouts every Saturday in November and December.

The union said a deal for a safe method of despatch was "scuppered" by the local authority on cost grounds.

Merseyrail said the decision to strike was "disappointing given that there is now a guarantee of a guard on every new train with a safety-critical role".

'Great frustration'

The RMT has opposed the introduction of driver-only-operated trains (DOO) - where drivers close doors instead of guards - which started rolling out across the country in 2017.

Merseyrail is embroiled in the nationwide dispute along with other train operators, some of whom have said "safety bodies have confirmed that having the doors closed by the driver is at least as as safe as by a conductor".

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It is with great frustration that our members have been forced to take strike action again on Merseyrail when we seemed so close to reaching an agreement on safe despatch.

"Both the guards and drivers who operate the trains on a day-to-day basis are saying that they can't accept the proposed method of operation and their voice needs to be heard."

Christmas impact

A Merseyrail spokesman said it was "extremely disappointed" with the strike plans as recent workshops had been held between itself, the RMT and Merseytravel.

"It is especially disappointing given that there is now a guarantee of a guard on every new train with a safety-critical role and that we were so close to an agreement to end this dispute."

The strikes will be held on 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 November and 7, 14, 21 and 28 December.

Some walkouts that were planned for this summer on Merseyrail were cancelled following talks between the parties.

RMT members will also ban overtime from 3 November.

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