More rail action planned - but what is the dispute on Greater Anglia about?

Stock photo of Greater Anglia train. Pic: Sonya Duncan.

Stock photo of Greater Anglia train. Pic: Sonya Duncan. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Conductor/guards on Greater Anglia are to introduce an overtime ban for a month from October 10 as they step up their dispute over changing their role. But what is the dispute all about?

How is the guards' role changing?

Train guards have always had an important function in ensuring the safety of trains. Greater Anglia says they will retain this function.

However, until now the doors on some trains have been opened and closed by the guard through a panel on the side of carriage. The new trains being introduced from 2019 will have that button operated from the driver's cab and the doors will be covered by safety devices. The guards will not have to open and shut the doors which should, the company says, free them up to deal with passengers.

Will jobs be lost?

Greater Anglia says no conductor/guards jobs will be lost. They say they are guaranteeing their jobs until the end of the franchise in October 2025 – and are currently recruiting new conductor guards.

The union does not accept the guarantee and says its members' jobs will be downgraded by losing safety responsibilities.

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Would the changes make rail journeys less safe?

The company says the new operation would be just as safe as it is at present – and all the government's rail safety authorities say they are not worried about the drivers having responsibility for closing the doors.

The RMT, which represents conductor/guards but only a minority of train drivers, says transferring the responsibility from guards to the drivers would be less safe.

Are all trains affected?

No. 60% of Greater Anglia trains – most of the suburban trains – are driver-only operated now already. It is the Intercity and rural services that are affected by this dispute.

Will trains continue to run during the industrial action? Greater Anglia says trains will run as normal because it has trained other staff to step into the roles of conductor/guards. The RMT has described these replacements as a 'Scab Army'.

How long will the strikes last?

Both sides say they are keen to talk – but the RMT has co-ordinated its action next week with strikes on other companies and it is taking place during the Conservative Party conference. That has led some to suggest that it is keen those strikes should go ahead to make a point.

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