East Coast rail strike threat

editorial image

The rail union RMT has warned that it is heading towards a dispute with East Coast over the introduction of a new fleet.

The union believes the introduction of the new Hitachi fleet could lead to an axing of guards and buffet cars and the hiving-off of train maintenance.

Under the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) the fleet, built in Japan and reassembled in the north east of England by Hitachi, has the capacity to run on Driver Only Operation (DOO), with the removal of the guards. The union fears stripping out buffet cars could be followed by the current in-house fleet maintenance being hived-off to a third party.

RMT has written to the Government with a set of core demands. They insist that guards and buffet cars be retained on all inter-city services, and that fleet maintenance be retained in-house. The union has placed the same demands on current franchise holders.

The union has made it crystal clear 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 said:“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.

Hitachi said the new Super Express Trains mean a step change in capacity, improved reliability and reduced environmental impact. Hitachi Rail Europe will carry out fleet maintenance for the next 27.5 years.