It is a depressing reality that we are in another era of rail strikes. There are many reasons for this and now is not the time and place to get into a detailed analysis of why the RMT union have chosen to strike, although I will comment briefly below.
The important issue is the nature of the strike, the impact it has on customers both local nad visiting and the extent of the strike.
The best source of information is here: https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/industrial-action
It is important to note that some services are running still.
Of course this could change so keep checking the Northern web site.
The issue: this is one that is being faced all over the world = automation and modernisation:
The consequence of both is whether, in the future, a modern train can be operated by a driver as they are designed to; or whether modern trains have to have the doors opened by a guard, not the driver. I oppose the strike for a number of reasons but .....
To try and give a balanced view of the strike and the background have a read of the Guardian (not exactly a friend of the govt or railway companies) here:
Politics: that this is a politically motivated strike is without a doubt. This relates to specific union politics, namely who is top dog in the union movement, and a bit against the government. The rail companies are caught in the middle.
Do driver operated trains work?
In urban areas the answer is clearly yes. See the Metro in Tyne and Wear and the London Undergound. And large parts of Scotland, mainland Europe etc etc .
This does require the right technology / trains. Clearly there are not happening in our area of the North East or the Tyne valley line either right now or in the near future. So again the strike is premature. But what is more galling is that Northern - since they acquired the franchise - have accepted that on the Tyne valley line we should have more security and protection for passengers, notably on Friday's and Saturday nights, and have acted. I would urge union members to think long and hard about Mondays strike and the way forward.
This is what the RMT union rep says:
“The union’s position on driver-only operation [DOO] is perfectly clear,” he said. “We will not agree to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety-critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.”
He said the action would have been preventable if the companies had “listened to the union’s deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit”.
The right to strike: I do not disagree with this but already certain mission critical jobs and services are not allowed to strike by law. For example the army, security services, police, etc.
Other countries have rules preventing strikes by key providers of commuter services. Many of the upset southern rail suffererers want this law introduced allowing a judge to balance the right to strike as against the right of ordinary commuters to get to work: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/22/rail-workers-could-banned-striking-protect-peoples-right-get/
This proposal did not pass the House of Commons, and is not I stress proposed as law by government. But the RMT is playing a dangerous game.
Ultimately, this issue comes down to one key thing: can unions hold back the march of machines?