Union anger at more rail job cuts

A TRANSPORT company whose rail empire includes the East Anglia's main line has warned of further job losses this year. National Express has already announced 350 job losses in the region, but despite profits of �194million, the company's chief executive Richard Bowker announced yesterday there would be “further headcount reductions”.

A TRANSPORT company whose rail empire includes the East Anglia's main line has warned of further job losses this year.

National Express has already announced 350 job losses in the region, but despite profits of �194million, the company's chief executive Richard Bowker announced yesterday there would be “further headcount reductions”.

The news was met with anger from union bosses who feel the profit is a kick in the teeth for those facing redundancy.

Rick Justham , senior regional organiser for East Anglian of the TSSA rail union, said: “It is just outrageous that Mr Bowker can't guarantee that no more jobs will be lost.

“It shows National Express is more bothered by profit rather than people. It is unacceptable that they cannot give staff some form of reassurance that there jobs are safe this year.”

Announcing a rise in profits from last year, Mr Bowker went on to say that the rail industry was facing “challenging conditions”.

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He added: “It is certainly possible that some of the plans we are looking at will result in further headcount reductions. We have to see how trading goes.”

“In our East Anglia [rail franchise] business changes will result in headcount reductions, including changes to onboard catering services and the removal of onboard staff on the Stansted Express.”

It is not clear how many additional jobs could be lost in East Anglia.

Rail Maritime and Transport Union announced the threat of strike action last week over job cuts. Voting is due to start on Tuesday and close on March 17. If it goes ahead the strike would affect commuters on the busy Norwich to London line.

Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, said: “National Express's cost-cutting plans will be self defeating and end in disaster. By axing jobs, closing dining cars, cutting ticket offices and rationing first-class passengers' biscuits and water, they will only drive passengers away.”

A National Express East Anglia spokesperson said: “We have a robust plan in place to manage the business to ensure we come through the current recession resiliently.”

Mr Bowker described the 2008 financial results as “fantastic”, and said he was confident that the company's rail division would be profitable in 2009.

However, he added: “As part of our programme to reduce borrowings, the board has decided to reduce the full year dividend to 22.72p per share, recommending a final dividend of 10p per share, which is expected to save over �30 million compared to last year and is sustainable for the future. We will continue to review other opportunities to strengthen our financial position.”

Across the country 750 jobs have been lost.