Rail strike goes ahead as talks fail

A 48-hour train strike by National Express East Anglia workers in Norwich - due to start at midnight last night - is going ahead after talks aimed at resolving a row over pay and conditions broke down.

A 48-hour train strike by National Express East Anglia workers in Norwich - due to start at midnight last night - is going ahead after talks aimed at resolving a row over pay and conditions broke down.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it expected its members at National Express East Anglia to 'solidly support' the walk-out.

Workers staged a 48-hour stoppage last week, causing travel chaos for tens of thousands of commuters.

The company ran just 100 services a day instead of its usual 1,800 and the union said it expected the same level of disruption during the strike today and tomorrow.

National Express said most services on its East Anglia routes would not run today and tomorrow as a result of the industrial action.

A limited train service will operate between Stansted Airport and London Liverpool Street, Southend Victoria and London Liverpool Street, and between Norwich and Colchester to London Liverpool Street.

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Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, said: 'We have asked the unions to suspend the action whilst discussions continue - but this request has been refused.

'We have also asked the unions to put our revised offer to their members - but this request has also been refused. We believe the pay claims continue to be wholly unrealistic and that continuing strike action is inappropriate and unnecessary.

'We are extremely sorry that our customers will be inconvenienced as a result of this unnecessary industrial action by the unions. For the sake of our customers we remain available at any time for discussions and will continue to strive for a sensible outcome.'

National Express East Anglia said it had invited ACAS to help the parties resolve the dispute, but said none of the trade unions was prepared to talk further until Monday.

Last night passengers were urged to consult an alternative timetable the company has produced.

The firm said: 'Whilst we will aim to run these services to the maximum number of carriages, it is very likely they will be extremely busy and therefore we strongly recommend passengers spread their journey times.

'National Express East Anglia tickets will be accepted on c2c, First Capital Connect and East Midlands Trains on these days. In addition, TfL buses and London Underground will be accepting Travelcards and season tickets.'

Passengers were also warned that services could be affected on Saturday morning.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: 'This strike has been caused by greedy National Express bosses who have soaked up �2.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies in the past 10 years and who have milked every penny out of this franchise while offering their staff peanuts this year.

'Despite making half a billion in profits out of their workforce and the travelling public over the past 10 years, National Express have resorted to pleading poverty. RMT wants this company off the tracks as soon as possible with all of their franchises returned to public ownership.'

Members of the RMT and the drivers' union Aslef were due to be on strike from midnight last night, and will be joined by booking clerks belonging to the Transport Salaried Staffs Association in further walk-outs next week if the dispute remains unresolved.

The Aslef union said yesterday on its website: 'National Express East Anglia talks broke down following management misinforming the other unions (RMT and TSSA) that Aslef had independently agreed to go to arbitration when we had given no such commitment, further demonstrating their contempt for industrial relations.

'Therefore the strikes scheduled for August 6 and 7 will go ahead as planned. Aslef is committed to continuing negotiations in order to resolve the ongoing dispute.'

For more information visit the website at: www.nationalexpresseastanglia.com. NXEA customers will be entitled to a refund for the affected day's travel.