New Year rail misery for passengers

MARK NICHOLLS Rail passengers across East Anglia are set to be hit by further industrial action on the trains over New Year as a strike over festive pay continues, it emerged today.

MARK NICHOLLS

By Mark Nicholls

Rail passengers across East Anglia are set to be hit by further industrial action on the trains over New Year as a strike over festive pay continues, it emerged today.

Central Trains will run no services into and out of Norwich on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, although it is now planning a limited service on other parts of its network.

Senior conductors have taken strike action over payments for working on those days and also over plans for new central rostering arrangements planned by the rail operator.

A 24-hour walk-out by senior conductors, represented by rail union the RMT, brought the company's operations to a standstill on Christmas Eve but since then some senior conductors have volunteered to work and senior managers are also helping fill posts.

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Central hopes to run around one third of its standard services but has not been able to find enough senior conductors to run services into Norwich.

A Central trains spokesman said: “We need around 150 conductors to run a Sunday service. At the moment, we have enough to run about one third of our services but we have not got enough to run our services through to Norwich.”

Central Trains will operate routes around the Birmingham area, trains through Nottingham, Sheffield and Lincoln.

The only East Anglia service is on the Cambridge-Stansted Airport link.

Central Trains' Operations Director, Andy Thomas, said the company had prioritised services on popular routes and where there were limited alternatives for passengers.

He said: “I am pleased that we are able to provide a good level of service to passengers on both of the strike days over New Year. We have worked hard to plan services which will help local people to complete their travel plans.

“We have had Senior Conductors wanting to come back to work on these days, so we are able to provide services on both the Sunday and then on more routes on New Year's Day itself.”

Central had offered its 550 senior conductors £236 to work 10-hour shifts on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day

Conductors at Central voted by 231 to 37 to strike over the imposition of centralised rostering and by 177 to 68 to take action over the Christmas/New Year-working deal.

Since Christmas the company says it has been contacted by senior conductors willing to work and has now been able to offer some services.

Central Trains ran no services at all on Christmas Eve after local RMT negotiators vetoed a last minute deal which would have seen the strikes cancelled, despite coming close to agreement at national level.

The RMT says that the dispute over plans for central rostering is an ongoing issue.