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Last-minute talks as rail strike looms

PUBLISHED: 09:56 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 03 July 2010

CRUCIAL talks to try and avert a rail strike in Norwich will continue today as a rail workers' union refuses to budge over its demands for changes in pay and conditions.

CRUCIAL talks to try and avert a rail strike in Norwich will continue today as a rail workers' union refuses to budge over its demands for changes in pay and conditions.

A 48-hour strike will start tomorrow unless an agreement is reached between National Express East Anglia and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), which said that 75pc of more than 100 booking clerks backed the proposed action.

National Express East Anglia is currently making arrangements to run a limited service tomorrow and Friday in case no resolution is reached by then.

Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the Aslef union walked out for 48 hours last week, and the two-day strike planned for tomorrow will potentially affect services in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex. The Stansted airport service would also be hit, along with routes into London.

A National Express East Anglia spokesman said last night: “The talks are still ongoing. There is no outcome at this stage so it really is a case of seeing what happens. Both sides are still talking to try and reach an agreement. In the meantime, we are planning arrangements in case they don't achieve a resolution before Thursday, and are putting in place plans to run whatever service we can on Thursday and Friday.

“These will include the three peak-time Norwich to London trains that we were able to run last week, plus some additional Norwich to Colchester trains. More details will be posted on our website.”

TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty has accused National Express East Anglia of a “high-handed” management style, and said: “We have had continued problems at East Anglia and on the East Coast line as the company has tried to drive down costs in its unsuccessful bid to hang on to the East Coast franchise.

“Our members are now saying they are no longer willing to pay the price for management failures with any more lost jobs or cuts in their conditions at work.”

But Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, said that the unions' demands were “totally unrealistic”.

He said: “We have offered salary increases above the rate of inflation, and remain available at any time for discussions.”

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