Rail strike chaos worsens for commuters

Author: By Peter Woodman and Beverley Rouse, Press Association

Fewer than 5 per cent of trains were able to run on National Express East
Anglia (NXEA) routes, which include London to Stansted Airport in Essex.

Some trains between Liverpool Street station in London and Stansted were
running today, as were Liverpool Street services to Colchester and Norwich,
to Southend and to Cambridge.

But no other NXEA services operated as the strike by three rail unions – the
RMT, Aslef and TSSA – bit deep.

The strike, which will continue tomorrow, is the third 48-hour stoppage in a
pay-and-conditions dispute, but this is the first time that TSSA members
have joined in.

Some progress towards settling the dispute was made in talks at the
conciliation service Acas yesterday but not enough to call off today’s
action.

An RMT spokesman said today: “The strike has been solidly supported. NXEA were
only able to run about 100 out of 1,800 trains in the first two stoppages
and, with TSSA joining in, there are even fewer services operating today.”

He went on: “The progress that was made yesterday was painfully slow. Channels
of communication are still open and we are now pushing for a resumption of
talks.”

NXEA said it had improved its pay offer to a 1.5 per cent increase this year
and a minimum of 2 per cent again in 2010 “with no strings attached”.

NXEA said it had done “everything possible” to prevent further disruption to
passengers and blamed Aslef for backing out of a deal “at the last minute”.

Aslef countered by saying that NXEA “seem to live on another planet” and has
shown no signs of doing anything to sort out the dispute.

A fourth 48-hour strike is planned for next week, August 20 and 21, if no
settlement is reached.

Stuart Peskett, 35, a writer of Chelmsford, Essex, travels into Liverpool
Street every day.

He said: “If the unions think that they will draw any sympathy by making the
daily commute for tens of thousands of people a misery, then they are
seriously mistaken.”

Meanwhile, talks are continuing to try to end a dispute which has seen RMT
members working for the Arriva CrossCountry rail company stage a month-long
ban on overtime and non-rostered Sunday working.

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