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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 09:59 GMT
'Free travel' claim by strike union
Arriva train
Conductors and station staff are taking strike action
A union official has said thousands of commuters in the north of England were enjoying free rail travel on Wednesday.

Staff from Arriva Trains Northern started a 48-hour stoppage at midnight, which will coincide with a 24-hour strike by 670 conductors starting on Thursday.

The Wednesday strike by station and retail employees, platform controllers and general supervisors, is over proposed restructuring.

An Arriva spokesman said commuters could still buy tickets on trains, from automatic ticket machines, and at ticket offices at stations not affected by the strike.

'Financial impact'

But Stan Herschel of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) said many ticket offices would be shut, allowing thousands of commuters to travel free.

Mr Herschel said: "On some of the busiest routes, such as York to Leeds, it is my understanding that they (Arriva) will not be taking any revenue.

"The impact on commuters will be negligible but there will be a financial impact for the company."

But Mr Herschel said there would be disruption to commuters on Thursday when the conductors went on strike.

The conductors' dispute is over a proposed 3% pay rise, which the union claims is unfair as company train drivers were offered 18%.

Strikers from the RMT union
Arriva staff have carried out several strikes

Further strikes by the conductors are also planned for April 5 and 6 and May 3 and 4.

Arriva has said it is disappointed at the strike actions, and is encouraging its customers to check services before they travel.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, has said Arriva cannot offer drivers an 18% wage increase, while "treating everybody else with contempt".

A spokesman for Arriva Trains Northern said: "We have been advised by the RMT union of a one-day strike by Arriva Trains Northern conductors on 28 March and a 48-hour strike on 5 and 6 April.

Metro strike

"We shall again be running as many trains as possible including trains on some lines where we were previously unable to run a service.

"This action will not affect services run by other train operators."

Meanwhile about a third of drivers employed by Nexus, which operates the Tyne and Wear Metro, say they will stay away from work on 2 April - just two days after the opening of a 100m link to Sunderland.

The drivers are members of the rail union Aslef and have asked for a 5% pay rise and a two-hour cut in the working week - Nexus is offering 3.8%.

See also:

25 Mar 02 | England
Arriva's 2m fine for axed trains
11 Mar 02 | England
Trains stopped in overtime row
06 Mar 02 | England
Arriva staff in more rail strikes
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