Christmas shoppers will suffer travel misery on Saturday because of another strike in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on Arriva Rail North (Northern) will stage their 40th walkout since the row flared.
The company said “very few” services will run after 5pm while trains are expected to be extremely busy.
This targeted action disrupts our customers’ livesArriva Rail North
By the end of December, Northern will have been hit by 19 consecutive Saturdays of strike action, usually running around a third of normal services on strike days.
David Brown, Northern’s managing director, said: “This targeted action disrupts our customers’ lives, but as we enter a vital period for businesses, it also damages the economic wellbeing of the north of England.
“We have fantastic colleagues who have supported customers by keeping our trains running on each of the RMT strike days.
“We are aiming to keep as many people moving as possible and ensuring customers can still travel into the biggest towns and cities for the big seasonal events including Christmas markets.
“We expect all of our services, and those of other operators, to be extremely busy and are calling on our customers to plan their travel carefully for the coming weekend, check the new timetables well in advance, and make sure they do not rely on the last trains home.”
As well as Christmas markets, there are a number of sporting fixtures and other events across the north of England this weekend.
The RMT claimed the cost to the taxpayer to date of the Government “bailing out” the company on strike days will be over £24 million by Christmas.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “This scandalous state of affairs means that not only are Arriva Rail North to be paid by the Government when they are not running trains on strike days it also means the company have no financial incentive to settle the dispute.
“What is worse it is estimated the cost of the bailout to date up to Christmas will be over £24 million, enough to pay for the 3.1% New Year fare freeze recommended by MPs almost three times over.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “Arriva Rail North’s incompetence has already wrought havoc on the lives of passengers and damaged the regional economy so it would be outrageous for the Government to hand over even more taxpayer cash.
“This sort of arrangement shows why the public has no faith in rail privatisation.
“Northern should have been stripped of their franchise for the appalling services they have provided. Instead, the Tories are rewarding their failure.
“The Government should make Arriva Rail North freeze fares for next year and this cash should be used to ensure passengers are properly compensated for the disruption they’ve experienced.”