August walkouts planned across Southern rail in a long-running dispute regarding the role of the guard could spread further afield, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced today.
It will ballot both guards and drivers on Greater Anglia over the potential extension of so-called driver-only operation, for both strike action and action short of a strike. The union said the firm had failed to give a guarantee on the role of the guard throughout the length of the franchise.
The network carries millions of passengers a year, spans areas across the east and southeast of England, including the capital, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:
Greater Anglia have been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guard on their services. They have failed to do so.
RMT will not sit back and wait for the company any longer and we have no option but to begin preparations for a ballot in order to protect safety and access on Greater Anglia services.
The union remains available for further talks around the crucial issue of the guard guarantee.
But Richard Dean, Greater Anglia's train service delivery director, said:
We have conductors on our intercity service between Norwich and London Liverpool Street and on our rural routes across East Anglia.
They are highly valued colleagues and we have no plans to remove them from our trains. In fact, we have a new conductor training course starting in August.
We hold regular meetings with the unions which represent our colleagues. These meetings will continue as we remain available for talks to resolve this issue.
It comes after the RMT warned last week action may be on the horizon for South West Trains too over the same issue. It is already involved in disputes with Southern rail, Northern and Merseyrail over the role of the guard, with strikes set for Tuesday 1 August, Wednesday 2 August, and Friday 4 August on Southern rail.
These coincide with walkouts planned by train drivers' union Aslef, which will cause major disruption to passengers, with up to 1,000 members involved. Aslef is also in the midst of an overtime ban on the network.