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Greater Anglia rail workers vote to strike over guards and driver-only trains

PUBLISHED: 15:25 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:21 12 September 2017

Greater Anglia workers have voted to go on strike.  Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Greater Anglia workers have voted to go on strike. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2015

Train workers and Greater Anglia are locked in a bitter dispute which could spark disruption on the regions’ railways.

The doors of the new trains coming to Greater Anglia will be controlled from the driver's cab. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA. The doors of the new trains coming to Greater Anglia will be controlled from the driver's cab. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA.

Train workers and Greater Anglia are locked in a bitter dispute which could spark disruption on the regions’ railways.

Staff are set to walk out over a dispute about the role of guards and driver-only trains the Rail, Maritime and Transport union has announced.

But tensions were raised last night as company bosses vowed to take on the strikers saying other members of staff had already been trained to stand in.

The union believes guards must operate the doors to ensure passenger safety but Greater Anglia and railway safety bodies say they are satisfied drivers can close the doors without risk.

The action would affect InterCity and rural services. Suburban trains are already operated by the driver alone. New trains coming to Greater Anglia in 2019/20 have doors that can be operated from the driver’s cab.

The RMT balloted both drivers and guards members and more than 200 Greater Anglia guards, on a 90% turn out, voted by nine to one for strike action. The drivers’ vote was two to one for action on a 75% turn out.

The union has already staged a series of strikes in other parts of the country over the same issue.

The ballot result will now be considered by the RMT’s executive who will decide on the next steps. Details of when the strikes might take place are not clear.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Greater Anglia has been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guards on their services.

“Our members have voted by massive majorities for action and it’s now down to the company to wake up and take note and 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.”

Tory Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who has campaigned to improve Norfolk’s railways, said: “I am disappointed that the hard-line RMT union is going to disrupt Norwich passengers. The strike action risks undermining the progress we need to make to improve our railway service.”

North Norfolk Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb said the guards on the trains did a “wonderful” job but urged both sides to go back to the negotiating table. Richard Dean, Greater Anglia’s train service delivery director, said: “We’re keen to talk to the RMT to try and resolve the issues involved.”

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