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Rail strike looms across Greater Anglia in guards dispute

A new Greater Anglia Class 170208 train
A new Greater Anglia Class 170208 train

The rail union RMT today confirmed its Greater Anglia members will take two days of strike action over the potential extension of driver only operation.

It sees the move as ‘clear threat to passenger safety’ and accuses the company of refusing to give a guarantee on the role of guards, so members will strike between from midnight to midnight on Tuesday October 3 and Thursday October 5.

‎RMT says it has balloted both drivers and more than 200 Greater Anglia guards, getting a 90 per cent turn out who have voted by a nine to one for strike action. Among drivers vote was two to one for action on a 75 per cent turn out.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Greater Anglia have been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guard on their services. They have failed to do so and that left us with no alternative but to move to a ballot in the interests of rail safety.

“Our members voted by massive majorities for action but the company have ignored that and have failed to seize the opportunity to give us the very simple assurances on the future of the guards, and the guarantee of a second safety critical member of staff on current services. That failure leaves us no option but to move to strike action.

“The union remains available for further talks around the crucial issue of the guard guarantee.”

Richard Dean, Greater Anglia train service delivery director, said: “We are obviously disappointed with the ballot result. We’re keen to talk to the RMT to try and resolve the issues involved and to avert industrial action.

“We value our conductors highly and we have guaranteed their jobs until the end of our franchise in October 2025. In fact, we will be recruiting additional conductors, as we are replacing all of our trains with brand new trains from 2019, which will enable us to run more services.”

Greater Anglia says its new trains will be fitted with the latest modern technology, allowing drivers to open and close doors, which it says is endorsed by two safety reports from two independent organisations.

It wants conductors to be able to spend more time looking after passengers, providing information, help and assistance.

A spokesman added: “In the event of any industrial action going ahead, we’d like to reassure customers that we have contingency plans in place and we would intend to run a full service. We have trained additional people as conductors to enable us to do so.”

It says 60 per cent of its services currently operate without a conductor.