Region braced for rail strike chaos

By Juliette MaxamCOMMUTERS in East Anglia are bracing themselves for travel chaos after railway workers voted to take strike action.Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union heavily backed a campaign of industrial action against Network Rail in a dispute over pay and pensions.

By Juliette Maxam

COMMUTERS in East Anglia are bracing themselves for travel chaos after railway workers voted to take strike action.

Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union heavily backed a campaign of industrial action against Network Rail in a dispute over pay and pensions.

About 7,000 signal workers and maintenance staff are now set to be involved in the biggest industrial unrest on the railways for a decade.


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The RMT also warned it might co-ordinate strike action on the mainline railway with London Underground, where union members are involved in a separate pay dispute.

Manningtree Rail Users' Association chairman, Derek Monnery, said a strike would put people off travelling by train.

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He added commuters would be forced to make alternative arrangements to get to work, ranging from catching a bus, driving, or putting up a camp bed in the home of a colleague who lived nearer to work.

“This is going back to the 70s. I would have hoped that these trade unions would have left all of this behind,” said Mr Monnery.

“Particularly for people north of Manningtree, they'll consider relocating businesses or themselves. It will be the last straw. At the end of the day it will discourage people from travelling by train.”

Commuters are already bracing themselves for a summer of disruption with the closure of the Ipswich tunnel from July 11 to September 5, with bus shuttles between Ipswich and Manningtree replacing rail services.

Guy Dangerfield, regional director of the Rail Passengers Committee, said: “I think the key message from passengers is that this is unwelcome news. Any industrial action is likely to be disruptive to some extent to passengers.

“Our message to the union and employer is to get round the table quickly and to keep talking to resolve issues without the need for passengers' lives to be disruptive.”

Gill Casswell, spokeswoman for train operator One, said it was difficult to predict how much disruption the strikes would cause.

“It will affect, but at the moment we have no idea because we haven't got any facts and figures,” she added.

RMT members voted by 2,947 in favour of a strike with 2,246 against, but the union held back from naming strike dates immediately in a sign that a fresh attempt to avert walkouts could be made.

The union's general secretary, Bob Crow, said its executive will meet next week to decide what form of industrial action would be held.

But he made it clear that strikes would be held unless there was a breakthrough, although Mr Crow said there would be no disruption during the bank holiday weekend or to coincide with events to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

juliette.maxam@eadt.co.uk

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