Strikes disrupt rail services and more walkouts are threatened

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of passengers suffered severe disruption throughout northern Britain yesterday when rail workers struck over pay.

In Scotland there were no regional and commuter trains and Arriva Trains Northern – which covers Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle – provided fewer than two out of five services.

Drivers at ScotRail were staging a 24-hour stoppage in an attempt to catch up with the pay of colleagues south of the border, while conductors and ticket office staff at Arriva were seeking the same percentage increase as the company's drivers. Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association joined the strike against Arriva, the first time the union has been involved in industrial action in almost 30 years.

The walkout by Scottish train drivers – the first for 20 years – ended at midnight last night and the 48-hour strike in northern England was due to end at midnight tonight. The train drivers' union Aslef later said it had accepted an invitation from the conciliation service Acas to attend talks over the ScotRail dispute to be held next Tuesday, the day before another 24-hour strike is planned.

ScotRail, which is facing huge losses, said it had offered a rise of 16.5 per cent which would raise drivers' salaries from £23,000 to £26,900. But Phil McGarry, of the RMT, described the offer as a "crude window-dressing exercise" and said the conditions placed on it by ScotRail were unacceptable.

Commuters in northern England also face disruption by drivers protesting about "draconian" disciplinary measures taken against colleagues at First North Western, which provides regional services in north-western England. The result of a strike ballot is due in three weeks. Meanwhile, staff at Tyne and Wear Metro are also threatening industrial action over a 3.5 per cent wage offer.

In southern England the threat of more walkouts at South West Trains ended yesterday after the RMT rail union agreed to further talks.