Conductors on Greater Anglia trains take strike action, but rail bosses say train services should not suffer
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Rail conductor/guards employed by Greater Anglia are to walk out on strike again for three days – but the company insists passengers in Norfolk should not face any disruption.
The guards, who are members of the RMT, will be on strike on today, Wednesday, and Friday in a dispute about their future role – and who should control the doors of the new trains due to be introduced from next year.
Greater Anglia has trained managers and other backroom staff to operate as conductor/guards and expects to run a normal service.
Greater Anglia issued a statement in which they said: 'We'd like to re-assure you that Greater Anglia is planning to run a full, normal service with no service alterations.'
Conductors operate on routes from Norwich to London, Cambridge, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth and Sheringham.
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The company added: 'We highly value our conductors. We know customers agree that they do a great job providing them with help and assistance on our trains.
'That is why we are keeping conductors on our trains and guaranteeing their jobs right through to the end of our franchise in October 2025. There will be no erosion of their pay or terms and conditions. They will still be safety trained and continue to have to pass key safety, competence and medical tests to carry out the conductor's role.
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'We want our conductors to be able to provide even more help to our customers, so when we get new trains, from 2019, we'd like drivers to open and close the train doors, which would mean conductors can spend more time with customers.
'Drivers already safely open and close doors on 60 per cent of our trains, and have done so for 30 years. Independent safety reports by the Railway and Safety Standards Board and the Office of Rail and Road conclude that, as long as correct procedures are followed, it is at least as safe for drivers to open and close doors.
'So, our proposals are all about giving a better and safer service to our customers, by guaranteeing our conductors' jobs, but changing their roles slightly - so that they can spend more time with customers, using a safe method of operation where drivers open and close the train doors.'
But the RMT says that changes will make trains less safe and fears jobs could eventually be lost.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash has written to transport secretary Chris Grayling proposing a summit with the Department for Transport, the train companies and the union.
The RMT said the meeting could consider how the principles of the agreements the union has reached in Scotland and Wales, which will keep guards on new trains, can be applied to the current disputes while meeting any concerns the Department for Transport and train companies have about future train services.
Mr Cash said: 'I last met Chris Grayling on December 12, where we were told the train companies were free to negotiate deals like we have reached in Scotland and Wales where the guard has been retained but I then subsequently received a letter from Chris Grayling asking the union to accept the principle of driver-only trains.
'In light of this lack of clarity, and the contradictory messages emanating from the government, I have been seeking further talks with the Secretary of State but unfortunately have not had a positive response to that request.
'I have therefore written to Chris Grayling proposing a summit which could also be presided over by an agreed independent chair and which would consider how the principles of the agreements RMT have recently reached in Scotland and Wales, which will keep the guard on new modern trains, can be applied to the current disputes whilst at the same time meeting any concerns the Department for Transport and train companies have about future train services.
'I have told the secretary of state that agreements have been reached in Scotland and Wales for safe, secure and accessible modern services and that with good will on all sides we can reach an agreement in England as well.'