The three sides in the dispute over the role of guards on Merseyrail trains have reached an ‘in principle’ agreement that new trains will have a second member of staff with an as-yet-undefined role.
The news comes as union members on two other franchises went on strike over the weekend in ongoing disputes over the possible introduction of driver only operation.
The RMT union, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseyrail said in a joint statement that agreement had been reached ‘in principle that, subject to the provision and approval of an appropriate, affordable and sustainable funding package, the new fleet of Merseyrail trains, will have a second member of staff on board the train’.
Funding options could include measures to increase productivity and ‘an enhanced crackdown on fare evasion and increased fares’.
It adds however that detailed work to develop a full agreement ‘will take some months and will require compromise on all sides’.
This will include agreeing the role and safety responsibilities of the second member of staff where ‘the design of the new trains proposes that the door control and dispatch of the trains will transfer to the driver’.
The statement adds that ‘no one currently employed as a guard will lose their employment as a result of the introduction of the new fleet in 2021’.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Today's agreement in principle is an important and significant development in respect of RMT's long running campaign to retain a guaranteed second, safety-critical member of staff on Merseyrail trains.’
However, Steve Rotheram, metro mayor for the combined authority, said: ‘Today’s announcement is huge progress but I also want to be clear that it requires a significant financial commitment and hard choices on all sides.’
Elsewhere, RMT members on South Western Railway held a three-day strike from Friday (31 August) to Sunday. In addition, the RMT held a 24-hour strike on Northern rail on Saturday, the second of six strikes due to take place on consecutive Saturdays until the end of the month.