The threat of further rail strikes has moved north after union bosses gave train operators a two-week deadline for assurances over the role of guards and driver only operation (DOO) of train doors.
The RMT said it had written to Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North calling for ‘cast-iron assurances’ around the future of the role of the guard by 26 January.
An existing MerseyRail train
MerseyRail and regional transport body Merseytravel announced last month that they would be ordering new trains configured for driver operation of train doors, which could remove the need for guards.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘The union’s position on driver only operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any extensions of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.
'RMT has asked Merseyrail on numerous occasions for assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services.’
In a statement the company said: 'Merseyrail is surprised and disappointed that the RMT has threatened a dispute with the company, when there have been no substantive face to face discussions between the two organisations on the question of DCO (driver controlled operations) since the democratically elected politicians of Liverpool city region authorised the purchase of new trains last month.'
In relation to Arriva Rail North, which runs Northern services, Mr Cash said; ‘We have been seeking assurances from Arriva Rail North that they will retain a guard on their trains and that the guard will retain their safety critical role. Regrettably this assurance has to date not been received.'
The issue is at the heart of a long-running dispute with Southern Railways. Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs Southern, announced on Wednesday that it is taking its attempt to prevent drivers union ASLEF holding further strikes later this month to the Supreme Court.
A spokesman for the company said: ‘GTR is determined to protect its passengers and its business from unlawful industrial action.'