A union boss has hit out at train operator Northern Rail as staff prepare to walk out this weekend.

Passengers travelling on Northern's services, which run through much of Cumbria, are expected to face disruption as a row over the role of guards on trains continues.

A limited service will be running between 7am and 7pm on all Northern services on Friday and Monday.

Replacement buses will be running in both directions between Carlisle and Whitehaven, Carlisle and Appleby, while a revised timetable will be operating for trains between Carlisle and Newcastle and on the Cumbrian Coast Line between Workington and Barrow.

Passengers are being advised to check for changes to timetables before making their journeys.

Northern says it is currently embarking on a programme to modernise its network by 2020. The operator is planning to introduce 286 new carriages, 243 upgraded trains and to provide 2,000 extra services each week.

Sharon Keith, Northern's regional director, said: "It is disappointing that RMT has timed these two days of strike action to coincide with people returning to school, college and work after the summer holidays.

"The action aims to cause disruption to people’s lives, businesses and the economy.

“During recent talks we underlined that we are prepared to guarantee jobs and current pay for all our conductors for the next eight years. Our offers to discuss every detail on the future responsibilities and training for on-board colleagues have been rejected by RMT.

"We urge them to get back round the table with us quickly and talk seriously about our modernisation, not take unnecessary strike action.”

But Craig Johnston, regional organiser for the RMT in Cumbria, said: "It's time that Sharon Keith told the truth about Northern Rail's plans for train services in future.

"They've told us on many services there will be no second member of staff on board at all - only the driver.

"On services where there is a second member of staff, they will not be able to perform all the duties carried out by guards at present."

Mr Johnston said that the current role of guards includes more than 30 duties, including areas such as signalling and track layout.

"At a time when there is an increase in antisocial behaviour we believe it is nothing short of negligent to de-staff trains.

"We're happy to talk about anything at any time. However our line in the sand is not about the trains themselves but about safety and we think that should be their line in the sand as well.

"This isn't about modernisation and new trains - Cumbria won't be getting new trains, just refurbished ones - but it's about guards being able to maintain the level of safety that the train gets."