|Old Inter City stock.....|
The RMT Railway Union has warned politicians that it is heading towards a full-blown dispute on both First Great Western and East Coast, over the introduction of the new Hitachi fleet which they say could lead to an axing of guards, buffet cars and the hiving-off of train maintenance.
Under the Government sponsored Intercity Express Programme (IEP) the new fleet, built in Japan and then assembled in the North East by Hitachi, has the RMT claim, the capacity to run on Driver Only Operation [DOO] – removing on-board guards – and would strip out buffet cars to fit in more seats. The Union also say this could also lead to the current in-house fleet maintenance being hived-off to a third party.
RMT has written to the Government with three core demands:
• That the guards be retained on all inter-city services.
• That the buffet cars be retained on inter-city services
• That the fleet maintenance be retained in-house
RMT has placed the same demands on the current franchise holders, on both Great Western and the DOR East Coast.
The union also says that if the jobs and services aren’t protected under the IEP then a dispute will be declared with RMT making preparations for ballots for industrial action.
Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary commented: “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. RMT has made it perfectly clear that we are opposed to the extension of DOO on ANY rail services and with fights already in hand on the northern franchises and Thameslink/Southern we are now hard-wiring First Great Western and East Coast into that campaign.
“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. That is wholly unacceptable and RMT will not allow the maintenance grades to be cast adrift.
“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. We have no intention of allowing this situation to drift.”
Julian Bray comments: There is growing unease over the whole question of where our railways are going. Its now emerged that recently trumpeted extentions to the HS2 programme were not properly costed, and the temporary employment sap to the North East for the assembly of Japanese manufactured Hitachi trains units, has not gone down well in the traditional railway towns. It is all leading to a perfect storm in the run up to the General Election next year, with several service and Public sector strikes all scheduled to overlap...
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