WIRRAL commuters will face more disruption on the run-up to Christmas as unions announce strike action on Merseyrail after an ongoing dispute over driver-only trains.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has confirmed that staff from Merseyrail will take a further 24 hours of strike action on Friday, December 22.

This means that commuters in the borough will be left without Arriva bus services and Merseyrail services on the same day - three days before Christmas day.

The dispute between RMT and Merseyrail relates to a new fleet of driver-only trains that will replace the current 40-year-old rolling stock in 2020 which RMT say will threaten the security of guards jobs on trains.

Arriva North West and union Unite will be resuming talks on Friday, December 8 ahead of planned strike action on December 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22 and 23.

After a meeting with unions yesterday, Phil Stone, managing director of Arriva North West, said: “Arriva North West are committed to finding a resolution to this dispute.

"Today’s talks with the unions have been constructive and we have agreed to reconvene this Friday to continue our negotiations."

Unions say they will still go ahead with the walk-out if the pay dispute is not resolved.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members on Merseyrail are angry that senior Labour figures have chosen to ignore party policy on Driver Only Operation to side with the private company rather than our safety-critical guards.

"If those politicians had taken a positive and pro-active stance, like their colleagues in Wales and Scotland, we could move towards a solution to this dispute which puts safety first.

“The fact that we have been unable to make any progress whatsoever with the company means we have no option but to put this action on and the blame lies with Merseyrail and their political supporters.

“The City and Regional Labour leaders need to step back immediately from the terms of the resolution to remove all the guards, that they voted for a year ago this week, which lit the fuse in this dispute.

“Those senior Labour politicians have chosen the wrong side.

"They need to stand with the many – the passengers, the workers and the people of Merseyside, and not the few – Tory ministers and bosses of the private operator Merseyrail.‎"

Merseyrail’s new managing director Andy Heath said: "This strike just before Christmas is timed to take place at the busiest time of the year, with people out Christmas-shopping, attending festive events, and many commuters still going to work before the holiday period starts.

"As on previous strike days, we will endeavour to provide as many trains as possible, and timetable details will be disclosed over the next week or so.

"We are keen to see an end to this dispute.

At the request of the metro mayor, Merseyrail has agreed to independent conciliation with the RMT, with no pre-conditions."