'Support growing' for rail strike
Commuters faced fresh travel misery today because of another strike by rail workers, with worse disruption threatened unless a bitter row over pay and conditions is resolved.
Services on National Express East Anglia routes, including busy commuter trains from Essex into London's Liverpool Street station, were hit, forcing many people on to packed buses.
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union and the drivers' union Aslef said the start of the 48-hour walkout was "solidly" supported, with similar disruption expected tomorrow.
Booking clerks belonging to a third union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, will join another 48-hour strike planned for Thursday and Friday next week if the deadlock is not broken.
RMT leader Bob Crow said: "Our members have shown again that they are solid, angry and determined to secure a fair deal on pay and conditions from a company that is obsessed with maximising profits at the expense of staff and the travelling public.
"National Express have provoked this action and have alienated their entire workforce. Those workers have shown that they are not prepared to take a hit to prop up the profits of a company whose management have shown that they are not fit to run rail services."
The company accused the unions of demanding "unrealistic" pay rises and said an improved offer had been rejected.
Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, said: "We have asked the unions to suspend the action whilst discussions continue, but this request has been refused. We have also asked the unions to put our revised offer to their members, but this request has also been refused.
"We believe the pay claims continue to be wholly unrealistic and that continuing strike action is inappropriate and unnecessary.
"We are extremely sorry that our customers will be inconvenienced as a result of this unnecessary industrial action by the unions."
One woman who normally commutes by train from Forest Gate in East London to Central London said: "The buses were already busy when they stopped and we were packed like sardines when we managed to get on one - it was just like a scrum. I have no idea how I am going to get home."
Dr Helen Hill, policy director at the London Chamber of Commerce said: "People who use the affected routes will inevitably experience delays, which means time lost to commuting and in turn, lost productivity.
"Business people need to be able to rely on basic facilities like transport and when strikes turn from days in to weeks the capital's reputation suffers."
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