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Back office staff to stand in for conductors if train strike goes ahead

PUBLISHED: 13:09 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:39 27 September 2017

The new railcard is due to be rolled out nationally next spring.

The new railcard is due to be rolled out nationally next spring.

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Greater Anglia has prepared for a potential strike by conductors next week by training up back office staff to stand in for them.

Members of the RMT union intend to walk out on Tuesday, October 3 and Thursday, October 5 in a dispute over the potential expansion of driver only operated trains on the network, which calls at London Liverpool Street, Stratford and Romford and extends to parts of Essex and Norfolk.

The union said that Abellio, which runs the route, failed to provide representatives with the assurances they had been seeking with respect to the role and responsibilities of the guards.

More than 200 guards, on a 90 per cent turnout, voted by a majority of nine to one for strike action.

But the train operator has said that it has made contingency arrangements and that all trains should run as normal.

Richard Dean, Greater Anglia train service delivery director, said: “We are open for talks with the RMT in the hope that we can avert the strike.

“However, we know our customers don’t want to see their services cancelled, so we have spent several months training back office staff so that they can fill in for conductors.

“The majority of our services are not affected by the proposed strike anyway, but we are now prepared for the 40 per cent of services that have conductors.

“Our back office staff have gone through a rigorous training process, and have to pass competence, medical and safety tests before they can stand in for conductors.

“We will also have extra managers at stations to help customers with any enquiries.”

Currently, around 60 per cent of Greater Anglia trains operate without conductors.

RMT general Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is aware of plans the company are putting in place to minimize the effect of industrial action during our current dispute.

“This includes providing a rushed and compressed training to non-safety critical staff in a desperate attempt to carry on running business as usual.

“We believe these contingency plans include provision for persons utilized as guards (PUGS). This is effectively a scab army of poorly trained managers, with corners cuts and safety compromised.

“I would suggest that the company’s time and effort would be more productively utilized in reaching an agreeable solution to the dispute rather than this botched and potentially lethal attempt to weaken the effect of our industrial action.”

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