Rail union warns of strike action across UK over new trains

Updated: 

The introduction of a new fleet of trains may lead to the axing of guards and buffet cars


New rail strikes in the UK are looming as a row continues over the introduction of a new fleet of trains, leading to the possible axing of guards and buffet cars.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has warned has warned of possible industrial action.

The leading rail union has written to the Government making it clear it will ballot for industrial action if guards and buffet cars are not retained on the new Hitachi fleet, set to be introduced on First Great Western and East Coast services. Words:PA

The union said that under the Intercity Express Programme signed off by the Government, the new fleet - built in Japan and reassembled in the North East by Hitachi - has the capacity to run on driver-only operation, would strip out buffet cars in favour of more seats and could lead to the current in-house fleet maintenance being hived-off to a third party.

Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, said: "It defies belief that anyone in their right mind would seriously consider running these inter-city services on a driver-only basis, but the design of the fleet
allows for just that in terms of the control panels.

"It is sheer profiteering to strip out the buffet cars and replace them with trolleys. Not only does that
undermine the service to passengers but it also denies staff their one place of refuge and rest on these long-range routes.

"RMT is also deeply concerned about the future of the fleet maintenance, which is once again plunged into uncertainty with our members jobs and futures left in the balance.

"RMT is demanding answers and assurances from both the Government and the train companies. If those assurances aren't forthcoming we will move into dispute and begin preparations for ballots."

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "I am disappointed and surprised at the RMT's reaction to this transformational introduction of the new Intercity Express Programme trains.

"The IEP Intercity Express Programme will transform services on two major rail lines, generating growth along the corridors they serve and creating thousands of jobs both at Hitachi's Newton Aycliffe facility and across the manufacture and supply chain.

"The safety and comfort of both passengers and staff has been a top priority in the design of these trains and groups including train operators, passengers and safety experts have been closely involved in the process.

"Fixed kitchens as well as trolley facilities are included in the base design of the train and there is always the scope to introduce buffet facilities if the new franchisee wants to offer this facility."

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