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  1. ITV Report

Rail strikes looming in East Anglia over driver-only trains

Greater Anglia rail workers have voted to go on strike. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/PA Images

The bitter dispute over the role of guards and driver-only trains has spread to East Anglia after another vote for strikes.

200 rail guards, who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on Greater Anglia, backed industrial action by nine to one on a 90% turnout.

Drivers backed strike action by a two to one margin.

The union has staged a series of strikes on Southern Railway, Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North, while workers on the new South Western Railway franchise are to be balloted for strikes over the same issue.

The mainline between Norwich and London has old rolling stock with manually-operated doors. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Greater Anglia has always maintained that there would still be a role for conductors on new generation trains where the doors are operated by the driver.

Greater Anglia operates the Intercity rail line between Norwich and London along with a number of branch and rural lines in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Greater Anglia is replacing its entire fleet with brand new trains during 2019/20.

The company says they will be fitted with the latest modern technology, allowing drivers to open and close doors, as endorsed by two safety reports from two independent organisations.

Greater Anglia operate rail services in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The RMT said Abellio, which runs Greater Anglia, had failed to provide the union with assurances over the role and responsibilities of guards.

The ballot result will now be considered by the RMT's executive who will decide on the next steps in the dispute.

"Greater Anglia have been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guards on their services.

"Our members have now voted by massive majorities for action and it's now down to the company to wake up and take note and to seize the opportunity to give us the very simple assurances on the future of the guards, and the guarantee of a second safety-critical member of staff on current services."

– Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary
Greater Anglia says new trains will be fitted with the latest modern technology allowing drivers to open and close doors. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Greater Anglia said the driver operating the train doors would improve both safety and punctuality, as well as freeing up conductors for more customer service duties.

“We are obviously disappointed with the ballot result. We’re keen to talk to the RMT to try and resolve the issues involved and to avert industrial action.

"We value our conductors highly and we have guaranteed their jobs until the end of our franchise in October 2025.

"In fact, we will be recruiting additional conductors, as we are replacing all of our trains with brand new trains from 2019, which will enable us to run more services.”

– Richard Dean, Train Service Delivery Director, Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia says 60% of its rail services already operate with only a driver and no conductor.

Greater Anglia routes where all trains operate with both a driver and a conductor

  • Norwich to London intercity service
  • Norwich to Sheringham
  • Norwich to Great Yarmouth
  • Norwich to Lowestoft
  • Norwich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Lowestoft
  • Ipswich to Felixstowe
  • Harwich/Ipswich to Cambridge
  • Ipswich to Peterborough
  • Marks Tey to Sudbury
  • Colchester to Clacton/Walton
  • Manningtree to Harwich.