Rail union says more strikes will follow one-day walkouts

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The Independent Online

Leaders of 3,000 train guards are planning a second wave of strikes across the network on top of the three 24-hour walkouts that begin today. Nine operators, including Virgin and Connex, are expected to be hit by the industrial action, which will halt nine out of ten trains on some routes.

Leaders of 3,000 train guards are planning a second wave of strikes across the network on top of the three 24-hour walkouts that begin today. Nine operators, including Virgin and Connex, are expected to be hit by the industrial action, which will halt nine out of ten trains on some routes.

A senior official at the RMT rail union warned there would be other day-long stoppages if train operators failed to address concerns over the safety role of guards. Today's walkout will be followed by 24-hour strikes already scheduled for Monday and 17 April.

The RMT official said: "If management doesn't budge after the three strikes then of course there will be further industrial action."

The union is protesting at regulations that it says reduce guards to the status of Kit-Kat sellers. The union had given operators until 10am yesterday to respond to guards' concerns, but no agreement was reached.

The train companies hit by the strikes are Silverlink, Thames Trains, Connex South Eastern, Govia South Central, Arriva Trains Merseyside, Central Trains, Virgin Cross Country and Virgin West Coast. ScotRail is also a target but management was hoping to take legal action to stop the disruption.

Other companies have either agreed with the RMT's position, already taken court proceedings to halt the strikes or normally operate without guards.

Some operators, such as Thames Trains, believe they will be still be able to run about 90 per cent of services, but Virgin Cross Country says it will manage only about 10 per cent.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, alleged that train operators who were bending the safety rules to use "hastily and inadequately" trained managers as stand-ins for strikers were showing a "stunning disregard for public safety". But a spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said all procedures had been approved by the rail inspectorate.

* The publicly backed Network Rail said yesterday it was taking more maintenance contracts "in-house" in reaction to the controversy over soaring costs and a series of crashes blamed partly on contractors. The Wessex and East Midlands areas are to join the Reading area as part of a new maintenance division.

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