Thursday 26 January 2012

Solution to Extra Carriages Dispute

Just before Christmas Northern Rail bowed to public pressure to add extra carriages to an early-morning Northumberland commuter train., but after just three days they were removed without warning bringing back misery to hundreds of commuters who use the “jam-packed” service travelling from Hexham to Newcastle every day.
It emerged that train drivers’ union Aslef raised health and safety concerns in an issue now dubbed “torchgate”. Concerns had been expressed about drivers having to walk the length of the train in the dark, to change ends. Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman offered in frustration, to buy torches for the drivers to solve the stand-off, but it appears drivers are already issued with torches and that it was really an industrial relations dispute.
Now, in a surprise move, the carriages are expected to be restored following an unscheduled meeting between the two sides where an “interim” agreement has been reached, with the extra carriages being hitched to the early morning 7.42am train from Hexham to Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
The service arrives early and shunts into a siding to allow a Glasgow service to pass by. Drivers used to walk inside the train to change cabs and take the train in the opposite direction, but when an extra multiple unit is connected there is no gangway connection and there no walkway between the extra carriages.
The deal involves an “understanding” between top company officials and the union.