Damaging rail dispute needs settling as matter of urgency

Fri, May 19th, 2017

Both sides urged to return to negotiations

Merseyside has been famous for many things over the years - most of them positive. We once had a reputation as a place of industrial strife and we don’t want that label back.

The RMT Union has announced its third 24-hour strike in its dispute with Merseyrail to take place on Tuesday 30 May.

The last one took place on Grand National day - the biggest day of the year for our booming visitor economy.

This dispute has now dragged on for too long and today I join with other members of our local business community to urge both sides to settle this quickly.

Essential upgrade

Merseyrail is introducing a new hi-tech fleet of driver-only operated trains by 2020.

This would see the end of the traditional role of the train guard. At the moment there are 220 such roles on the network.

Merseyrail has promised all those people will be retained on the same terms and conditions in different roles but the RMT insists guards must remain.

The train operator has offered a concession proposing a second employee on each service after 8pm - but the two sides remain deadlocked.

Change is inevitable if progress is to be made. A renewal of the ageing Merseyrail fleet is long overdue.
Economic boost

It is estimated that these new trains could vastly improve reliability on the network and boost the city region economy by £70m a year.

Businesses taking advantage of the better connections will be able to create up to 1,000 extra jobs it has also been forecast.

Above all, this huge investment in modernity says to every visitor that we are truly global city with world class infrastructure.

Poor rhetoric

We are unimpressed at some of the language being used by the union.

It has accused Merseyrail of taking a “cynical and hostile stance” and of having a “pig-headed” attitude.

Whatever the rights of wrong of this dispute such rhetoric takes us back to the bad old days of industrial conflict that set the reputation of this city back years.

Tourism powerhouse

This isn’t 1978. Liverpool isn’t a declining and crumbling city any more. It is a modern vibrant place that is now recognised as a powerhouse of the UK’s visitor economy.

Tourists generate more than £4bn a year for the city region.

If people arriving here on 30 May looking for a great experience find their visit disrupted by this damaging dispute, they may not come back again.

Both sides need to get back around the table and settle this as a matter of urgency.

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