RAIL staff took to the streets in protest following a dispute with a railway company.

In freezing temperatures Northern staff stood outside Blackburn Railway Station and said the railway company was attempting to ‘modernise’ its service by running driver only trains on half of its services and remove guards.

This comes as Northern aims to have faster and more frequent services and better stations by 2020.

Yesterday motorists beeped in support as they drove past the station.

Commuters were delayed as bus replacement services were put on between Bolton, Blackburn and Clitheroe and Hebden Bridge to Blackburn.

Daren Ireland, RMT regional organiser, said removing guards would comprise passenger safety.

He said: “They deal with day to day passenger issues and are comprehensively safety trained to deal with situations.

“Removing guards would significantly risk the safety of passengers using the trains.

“What the employer wants to do is simply cut standards of safety to boost its profits.

“When 200 tonnes of rubble fell from the top of Liverpool Lime Street station earlier this year, it was guards who helped evacuate the passengers safely.

“Without them there could have been injuries.”

There was a limited service running between Blackpool North and Burnley as well as a limited service from Manchester to Bolton and Blackburn.

Northern’s modernisation programme will introduce more than 130 new train services to its weekly timetable by December 10.

This includes weekend improvements of half hourly service between Blackburn, Darwen and Manchester.

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: “We have offered to protect the jobs and pay of our 1,300 existing conductors for at least the next eight years until the end of our franchise in 2025."