Passengers face rail strike nightmare

COMMUTERS in Suffolk and Essex will have to endure a “nightmare” on the trains next Monday as rail workers hold a 24-hour strike.

Elliot Furniss

COMMUTERS in Suffolk and Essex will have to endure a “nightmare” on the trains next Monday as rail workers hold a 24-hour strike.

The action will lead to a restricted service on the main Norwich to London route as well as causing havoc on the district lines in the two counties.

The strike, which will also affect the First Capital Connect network, is being held by members of the RMT union and will see a total of around 1,500 workers down tools.

National Express East Anglia (NXEA), which operates the region's rail network, said it was disappointed by the decision and would aim to operate as many services as possible.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said NXEA was seeking to “slash jobs” solely to maintain profits and dividends.

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He said: “It is only five years since National Express promised better booking office facilities, a bright future for full on-board catering on Norwich trains, and the recruitment of more customer-facing staff on the East Anglia franchise.

“Now our members - and the public they serve - are faced with the prospect of 300 job losses, cuts to services and the creeping casualisation of professional railway jobs with the use of agency and contract labour.

“Yet the National Express empire last year saw its UK rail profits jump by 28 per cent - contributing to a �60 million payout to shareholders.”

He said strike action could be avoided if NXEA shelved its “unnecessary” job cuts, guaranteed that there would be no forced job losses and talked to the union “positively” about the future.

A National Express East Anglia spokesperson said it was disappointed that the RMT had called the strike despite the fact that “only a minority” of members within its employment had voted for the action.

He said: “The RMT are pursuing a needless dispute which will only result in loss of earnings for their members. The recent review of our business is complete and is now delivering a greater focus on customer service and operational delivery.

“It has resulted in some job reductions which have all been delivered either through managing vacancies, or through voluntary redundancy.

“This reorganisation followed extensive consultation and engagement with the trade union officials and elected staff representatives.”

He said details of all cancellations and changes to the network would be available at stations and on the National Express East Anglia website.

David Bigg, chairman of the Witham and Braintree Rail Users' Association, said the strike would only cause “grief” for passengers.

He said: “This is a nightmare scenario for everyone.”