Just six trains to run from Chester on National day as railmen strike

Reporter:

Alan O'Hare

Just six trains will be running from Chester this Saturday, Northern Rail has confirmed

The rail provider is cutting services to and from Chester in half on Grand National day to cope with the extra pressure on Aintree due to staff strike action.

The expected walkout also means all trains to and from Ellesmere Port, Frodsham and Helsby are cancelled on Saturday, with no services between Chester and Hooton or between Ellesmere Port and Hooton.

Existing bus services will offer direct connections between Chester, Ellesmere Port and Liverpool.

“Planned strike action will severely limit our services, unfortunately,” said Northern regional director Paul Barnfield. “All of Northern’s services will be limited and we ask customers to plan their travel carefully.”

RMT Trade Union members will hold a 24-hour walkout for the second time in a month over the issue of driver-only trains.

“The continuing refusal of the company to give a simple, lasting guarantee that protects the safety-critical role of the guard on their trains leaves RMT with no option but to announce this further day of strike action,” said RMT General Secretary Mick Cash.

“This dispute was entirely preventable if the company had listened to the unions deep-seated safety concerns and had taken them seriously – the disruption to services will be entirely down to Arriva Rail North reneging on their earlier commitments.”

There will be no Wirral Line trains to Chester or Ellesmere Port, due to the industrial action also affecting Merseyrail staff.

Meanwhile, Merseyrail insist the Grand National is their priority: “The action being taken by the RMT on the city region’s busiest day of the year will affect others not travelling to and from Aintree,” said a Merseyrail spokesman. “In the interests of public safety, Merseyrail has prioritised the route to Aintree.”

Frank Rogers, chief executive of Merseytravel, said: “Despite the actions of the RMT, the city region’s transport providers are pulling together to make the best of it for racegoers and others.

“In taking the difficult decision to prioritise services to get people to and from the Grand National – one of the biggest events in the City Region’s year – we are sorry that it means other travellers will be badly hit.

“We are working hard to limit the disruption as far as possible, such as working with operators to strengthen bus services and by ensuring people have the help and guidance they need in considering their other options, but we know that Saturday will be a frustrating day for many.

“It is a real shame as this disruption is totally unnecessary. Now is the time for RMT to get around the table with Merseyrail and talk, not ruin a busy Saturday for thousands.

“The new trains being introduced from 2020 are a real game changer for our region. They will be safer in every way compared with the ones they replace and will bring local passengers faster journeys and many new features, including a sliding step from the doorway of each train, which coupled with improvements we are making to platforms, will allow passengers to get on and off unassisted.”

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, said: “We’ve put in place a timetable to get people to and from the races, with just as many services as we run on Grand National day every year. The RMT union is trying to spoil this annual mega-event, which delivers so many economic benefits, and which attracts tens of thousands of people from the city region and beyond.

”They didn’t need to target their strike action on this day. We won’t let them spoil it.”

There will be a half-hourly rail service running from Hooton to James Street from 10.15am to 2.15pm and from James Street to Hooton from 10.15am to 2.15pm and 4.45pm to 9.15pm.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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