BR's cross-Channel drivers awarded pounds 7,000 pay rise

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The Independent Online
BRITISH train drivers have won a pay increase of more than 30 per cent to drive the cross-Channel express from London to Paris and Brussels, writes Barrie Clement.

The 55 drivers of the Eurostar passenger trains will be on salaries of pounds 25,000 a year - about pounds 7,000 a year more than their British Rail colleagues, and pounds 3,500 more than their counterparts from France. More than 600 BR drivers applied for vacancies, which will eventually number 80.

Lew Adams, the new general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, said that the drivers were entitled to a bonus for cross- Channel operations because they needed to be aware of a new set of instructions for operating in the tunnel, and also the rule books in force on French and Belgian territory. They would also have to speak basic French.

Drivers of freight trains, which are operated by a different company, will get a pounds 90 bonus on top of the corresponding BR rate, putting them on pounds 20,000 a year.

Aslef has secured union recognition for 'through' freight and passenger services, but they have yet to establish themselves among drivers of Le Shuttle, which will be operated by Eurotunnel, part of the consortium that built the tunnel. The company has told Aslef that none of its drivers has asked for union recognition.

Despite Aslef's problems over Le Shuttle, Mr Adams regards the pounds 25,000 salary of Eurostar drivers as something of a coup and a model agreement for contractors taking over the operation of trains after privatisation on 1 April. The union believes that privatisation could place more industrial power in the hands of Aslef.