Northern Rail strike: Mixed reaction from passengers in Sheffield as 24-hour walkout begins

Passengers at Sheffield train station today gave a mixed reaction to the strike by Northern Rail staff, which is set to affect services throughout Monday.

Monday, 13th March 2017, 9:23 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:03 am
Monday's Northern Rail strike is expected to affect a number of services into and out of Sheffield

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is staging a 24-hour walkout, ending at midnight today, over the role of guards on trains.

Northern Rail has said it expects around 40 per cent of services to run today and has warned passengers to expect delays.

Nish Soni said he opposed strike action

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Sheffield station was quieter than usual this morning, according to staff at the station, who said passengers appeared to have heeded warnings about the well-publicised strike.

Those who did travel via the station were divided in their opinions about the strike.

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"I'm not annoyed because it hasn't affected me too badly and if it helps them achieve what they want I think that's good," he said.

Nish Soni said he opposed strike action

Damian Kerr, who said his journey had not been disrupted, also had some sympathy for the train drivers and guards on strike.

"I think workers have rights. The safety concerns have to be considered," he said.

But Nish Soni, whose journey from Leicester was unaffected, opposed the industrial action.

"It causes pain and problems for everyone else, because people have to get to work and travel. I understand they have a problem but this just causes grief for everyone," he said.

Another passenger, who did not give his name, was unhappy as a delay to his train from Nottingham had made him half an hour late for work.

"I'm very frustrated. I'm against the strike action because I think the customer should come first," he said.

The RMT is staging the strike in opposition to plans for drivers, rather than guards, to be made responsible for opening and closing train doors at stations. It claims the move could put passengers' safety at risk.

The union's general secretary Mick Cash said on Monday the response to pickets at stations had been 'fantastic'.

"Arriva Rail North should listen to their staff, listen to the public and recognise that there is no case whatsoever for axing the guard from their trains," he added.

"This action could have been avoided if Arriva hadn't back-pedalled from earlier pledges to retain the guard. It is now down to the company to ‎get that pledge back on the table and engage with the union in talks over a safe and sustainable future built around the guarantee of a guard on the trains."

Northern said it was running around 40 per cent of its normal service between 7am and 7pm today.

It urged passengers to consider whether their journey is 'absolutely necessary' and to check its website for the latest updates before travelling.

A spokesman for the operator said: "As our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages, it is a shame that RMT has announced strike action for Monday. Our aim is to reach a constructive resolution and we urge RMT to continue the talks we have already started.

“We want to protect jobs and pay, and during our recent discussions we offered to consult fully with our people, customers and key stakeholders."

Northern runs services from Sheffield to destinations including Doncaster, Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, Nottingham and Hull.

There had been warnings today's strike could cause extra traffic in Sheffield, with more people choosing to travel by car, and could lead to greater demand for bus services.

But staff at Sheffield central bus station said it had not been any busier than usual, and drivers did not report congestion being worse than usual.