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No talks on guards strike yet – but both sides say they want to get together

PUBLISHED: 16:21 25 September 2017

The dispute is over the new Intercity and rural trains built by Stadler in Switzerland that are due to be introduced by Greater Anglia in two years' time. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA.

The dispute is over the new Intercity and rural trains built by Stadler in Switzerland that are due to be introduced by Greater Anglia in two years' time. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA.

Archant

With a week to go before the first planned one-day strike by Greater Anglia train guards, both sides in the row say they are ready to talk to end the dispute.

Conductor/guards who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a bid to ensure they retained their safety role on some Greater Anglia trains – especially the responsibility to ensure that doors on InterCity and rural trains are operated by guards and not drivers.

The first two one-day strikes are planned for next Tuesday and Thursday – but both the rail company and the union say they are keen to talk to each other to try to resolve the dispute before then.

The RMT has called one-day strikes on other rail companies – Southern, Northern Rail, and Merseyrail – on the same days which are during the Conservative Party conference.

Greater Anglia bosses insist any strikes should not have an impact on passengers – 60% of its trains are driver-only operation and they have trained other staff to take over from conductor guards if necessary.

But a spokesman from the RMT insisted that the union was still keen to have talks to avert the strike: “We are ready to talk to Greater Anglia at any time, either directly or through ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). They just have to call us.”

Meanwhile there was a similar message from the company.

Richard Dean, Greater Anglia Train Service Delivery Director, said: “We are keen to sit down with the RMT and agree a way forward and we don’t believe that strike action is necessary to enable further talks to happen.

“In the meantime, we have made contingency arrangements to run a full, normal service should the RMT strikes go ahead.

“We highly value our conductors and we are guaranteeing their jobs right through to the end of our franchise in October 2025.”

The dispute affects the new trains that are being introduced by the company from 2019 onwards.

The new InterCity and rural trains will have doors that are operated from the drivers’ cab. At present their doors are controlled by guards. Suburban trains which make up about 60% of Greater Anglia’s services already have driver-only operation.

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