Threat of East Anglian rail strike rises as guards vote on industrial action

A Greater Anglia train. Picture: Sonya Duncan

A Greater Anglia train. Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The threat of a rail strike in East Anglia has risen after the union representing train guards called for a ballot on industrial action over the future role of guards.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union fear that the new InterCity and regional trains to be introduced in the region from 2019 will see the role of the guards diminished – and are seeking assurances they will retain responsibility for closing train doors.

They have had talks with Greater Anglia bosses but have been unable to reach agreement – and are now set to ballot on strike action or industrial action short of a strike.

Any action would affect InterCity and rural services – but not suburban services to London. There is already an agreement that they can be operated by their drivers only.

Ballot papers will be issued on Monday 21st August 2017 and the ballot will close on Tuesday 12th September 2017. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: 'Greater Anglia have been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guard on their services. They have failed to do so.

'RMT will not sit back and wait for the company any longer and we have no option but to proceed to ballot in order to protect safety and access on Greater Anglia services.

'The union remains available for further talks around the crucial issue of the guard guarantee.'

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It is understood that the door controls in the new trains are in the driver's cab – but the company said the role of the conductor/guard will remain crucial in the new trains.

They have recently recruited new staff to take on the role – and they are currently being trained before starting work as train conductor/guards.

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: 'We have now received notification of a ballot for industrial action from the RMT.

'We have no intention to remove conductors from our trains. They are highly valued colleagues and they will continue to play an important role on our trains.

'Clearly we hope that industrial action can be avoided but we will do our utmost to protect our customers from any disruption it could cause. We are seeking further talks with the RMT to try and agree a way forward.'