TRAIN operator Northern has agreed to enter into new talks with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) as plans for a strike later in the month continue.

The two parties have been in a dispute for more than a year over the introduction of Driver-Only Operated (DOO) train services, which would see trains run without a conductor on board.

Earlier in the week, the RMT confirmed that its members would be striking on Saturday, July 21.

In response, a Northern spokesman said: "Northern can confirm that, following our recent invitation, RMT has agreed to meaningful talks early next week regarding its ongoing dispute."

The company has previously said it will work with the union on the issue of DOO services, which the RMT says would create an unsafe environment for passengers.

Following the strike announcement, RMT general secretary Mick Cash, said: "It is a tribute to the determination and professionalism of RMT members on Arriva Rail North that they have remained rock solid for over a year now in what is a battle to put public safety before private profit."

It follows a period of disruption and poor performance from Northern, following a major timetable change on May 20.

Despite the introduction of an interim timetable in early June, nearly a quarter of trains run by the company ran at least five minutes late between May 27 and June 23.

The operator also suffered a 14% drop in the number of services arriving on time in that period, according to Network Rail's public performance measure (PPM) which regularly checks the performance of the train services.

The interim timetable is expected to come to stop running later in the month, when the timetable originally meant for May will begin running.