Bus strike brings commuter chaos

Thousands of commuters suffered huge delays this morning as a one-day bus strike went ahead and a collapsed power cable on railway line brought chaos to train services.

Thousands of commuters suffered huge delays this morning as a one-day bus strike went ahead and a collapsed power cable on railway line brought chaos to train services.

Many people had to hire taxis to work or take alternative transport as up to 250 bus drivers walked out in protest over their pay.

And rail services were also severely disrupted this morning after a power cable fell onto tracks just after 3pm yesterday in Ingatestone in Essex resulting in a limited train service between Norwich and London.

Commuters were delayed for hours at Norwich Station as One railways struggled to get the lines working again. Rail bosses said there would only be limited services until 4pm today.

Jonathan Denby from One railways apologised to passengers. “Services will unfortunately be limited today but we hope to resume normal service by 4pm.”

However, the chaos on trains and buses was good news for taxi companies, some of which received twice the number of morning calls.

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All First Eastern Counties services based from the city were hit by the strike, with the exception of the contract Park and Ride services.

Bosses at First had been hopeful until the last minute that last ditch talks could avert a series of one day strikes by drivers which could cost the city millions of pounds. But talks broke down and members of the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU), which represents the company's Norwich drivers, walked out.

The union has called for a string of one-day strikes over a pay claim and it is understood the strike could cost First a six figure sum and wipe out almost £1m from the city's economy.

A second planned strike, for Wednesday April 25, was called off at the last minute this morning as union and First tried to figure out a way of resolving the dispute.

The union said it had suspended two planned strike days last month to allow time for talks but had failed to reach an agreement but added First refused to enter into meaningful negotiations over a pay claim which was submitted in March last year.

Ivan Crane, regional industrial organiser for the TGWU, said a pay increase with no strings attached would have resolved the long running dispute but the current proposals put forward by First would leave many drivers worse off.

A spokesman for First said it would not be making any further comment.

Drivers at First's other depots in King's Lynn, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth have already accepted the company's pay offer.

But First drivers in Norwich are said to be furious that office staff had been offered a 7pc increase over the past two years while drivers had received none. Planned strike action by First drivers was called off at the last minute before Christmas last year. Drivers had threatened to walk out after First announced 8pc profits in six months.

Service on the buses:

All Norwich City services, plus services X3, X4, X5, 54, 56, 58, 58A will NOT operate.

But the services the company says WILL run are:

All Norwich Park and Ride services.

Service X1 - Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Peterborough Service

X2 - Norwich to Lowestoft.

Services 17 and 17A - South Tuckswood, Blofield, Lingwood.

Service 57 - Norwich to Easton College.

The following evening services are operated under contract to Norfolk County Council and will operate as normal:

Service 10B - Norwich to Mulbarton

Service 14B - Norwich to Wymondham

Service 54B - Norwich to Wroxham

For First Customer Services telephone Careline on 08456 020 121.