National Express to axe 750 jobs

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The Independent Online

Train and bus operator National Express said today that it planned to cut up to 750 jobs in a bid to save £15 million a year.

The Birmingham-based company, which runs the East Coast and East Anglia rail franchises, said the review of staffing would focus on support services and administration across all its businesses.

The proposals are still subject to consultation, but National Express said the total of up to 750 roles included a previously-announced plan to close a call centre in Norwich.

The decision to cut costs came as National Express admitted it had seen some impact of the weakening UK economy on its rail business.

The company, which employs around 18,000 people in the UK, said it would complete the cost cuts by the end of next year.

Earlier this month, South West Trains operator Stagecoach said it planned job cuts in support services and administration.

National Express chief executive Richard Bowker said: "Looking ahead, the transport sector cannot be wholly immune from the global recession.

"While cautious about the economic outlook, we are taking the initiative to reduce costs across our UK operations and counteract any slowdown in growth."

He said the uncertain economic climate meant the company had seen an increase in monthly renewals of season tickets.

Despite the tougher conditions, National Express said it saw passenger revenues growth for its East Coast operations of more than 9 per cent in the year to date, with 5.5 per cent improvement seen on the East Anglia service.

The company described trading at its bus business as robust after underlying revenues growth of 6 per cent in the same trading period.

The National Express coach business saw growth remain steady at 5 per cent, the company added in a trading update.

Gerry Doherty, leader of the TSSA rail union, called for urgent talks with National Express over the planned 750 job losses.

He said: "This is bad news for the rail industry and means that National Express must think we are heading into a really deep recession.

"The worrying thing is that jobs are going when passenger numbers are still growing. We will do all we can to protect jobs and services."