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Rail union branded “Luddites” over strike threat at Greater Anglia

PUBLISHED: 11:22 14 September 2017

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and task force chair Will Quince at the their meeting in the House of Commons. Picture: WILL QUINCE

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and task force chair Will Quince at the their meeting in the House of Commons. Picture: WILL QUINCE

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Members of the rail union that have called for strike action on Greater Anglia have been labelled Luddites by the Tory MP who chairs the taskforce pressing for improvements on the region’s main line.

The dispute is over the new Intercity and rural trains built by Stadler in Switzerland that are due to be introduced by Greater Anglia in two years' time. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA. The dispute is over the new Intercity and rural trains built by Stadler in Switzerland that are due to be introduced by Greater Anglia in two years' time. Picture: GREATER ANGLIA.

And Will Quince also said the strike threat was not about genuine job concerns – it was about an attempt by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union to bring down the Conservative government.

Colchester MP Mr Quince was speaking after meeting Transport Secretary Chris Grayling with fellow taskforce member and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith.

He said: “Greater Anglia have guaranteed there will be conductor/guards on their trains for the next 10 years. How many people have their jobs guaranteed for 10 years? The RMT is behaving like Luddites.

“But many of us think this is not about jobs really – it is an attempt by the RMT to bring down the government.”

Mr Quince hoped the assurances from Greater Anglia that any strike would not affect rail services would prove to be true.

A spokesman for the RMT dismissed claims that this was a political strike: “It is not about bringing down the government – it is about safety. Having a guard to ensure the safety of passengers.”

He accepted that 60% of Greater Anglia trains were driver only operation – but said it was important to retain guards on other services.

“It’s not true to say there is a guarantee for guards. Abellio runs Scotrail and has given a guarantee there with the new trains – why is safety important in Scotland but not for passengers in East Anglia?”

Greater Anglia has said it is keen to hold more talks with the RMT and hopes to resolve the dispute before any strikes are held.

But it has trained other staff to carry out their jobs if necessary and expects to be able to run a full service even if the strike goes ahead.

It would only affect Intercity and rural services. Suburban services to Essex and some trains to Ipswich are already driver only operation.

Mr Quince said that during their meeting with Mr Grayling the taskforce had also pressed the case for more investment in rail infrastructure in the region to speed up services.

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