Strikes have begun on three separate UK rail franchises in disputes over the use of driver-only-operated trains.

RMT members at Southern and Arriva Rail North, which operates the Northern franchise, and Merseyrail are all staging a 24-hour walkout on Friday (September 1).

Workers on the three franchises are also due to stage another 24-hour stoppage on Monday (September 4), while Merseyrail workers are set to strike on Sunday (September 3) as well.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Support from our members in all three disputes over public safety on our railways is absolutely solid as a rock this morning.

“These strikes are about putting passenger safety before private profit and those that seek to undermine the safety culture on our railways in order to fill their own pockets should be called to account and forced back to the negotiating table.”

Southern said that “services on many routes will operate normally”, including the Gatwick Express. But West London line services and trains from Guildford will not operate.

Northern Trains said it was running a “limited service” on September 1 and 4, with those trains expected to be “extremely busy”.

A “reduced” service is also being operated by Merseyrail due to the strike action on September 1, 3 and 4.

“Trains will run from around 07:00-19:00 on Friday, September 1, and Monday, September 4, and from around 08:00-19:00 on Sunday September 3. Some stations will be closed,” said Merseyrail.

In a separate move, RMT has also declared a “formal dispute” with the new South Western Railway franchise over the continued use of guards on its trains. The franchise was only taken over by a consortium of First Group and MTR on August 20.

The union said that South Western had “refused to give basic assurances” over the future role of guards.

Rob Gill