Fresh strike in guards’ dispute to cause more disruption

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Workers at one of the country’s biggest rail operators will stage their 35th strike on Saturday in the bitter dispute over guards on trains.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on Arriva Rail North (Northern) will walk out for 24 hours, causing travel chaos for passengers.

Northern said it expected to run fewer than a third of its services, with replacement buses on some routes but others having no trains or buses.

The union has held Saturday strikes at Northern since the end of August, a pattern it will continue until the end of the year.

Northern said it will be operating a reduced timetable with very few trains running before 9am and after 6pm.

Passengers were advised to “plan carefully” if they intend to travel on the rail network.

The RMT seized on a statement by MP John Woodcock that he has received a letter from Home Office minister Ben Wallace voicing fears that removing guards from trains will help drug gangs which groom youngsters to carry cocaine and heroin to market towns and seaside resorts.

Mr Woodcock, an independent MP, tweeted: “Home Office believes axing train guards could undermine fight against county lines drugs trade - big step in the campaign to keep them!”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The guards on our trains are the eyes and ears of the rail service and play a crucial role in combating crime whether that’s assaults, sexual harassment or spotting those who may be in a vulnerable position like young kids being used as mules by county lines drug gangs.

“This ministerial letter, admitting that the axing of guards has huge implications for the fight against crime and the drug gangs, backs up everything RMT has been saying about the dangers of driver-only operation.

“No Government serious about tackling crime would give the green light to throwing guards off our trains. The policy should be halted immediately.”