Norfolk rail travellers facing strike misery

Sarah HallThousands of commuters have been warned to brace themselves for massive disruption this week when train workers stage the first of a string of two-day strikes.Sarah Hall

Thousands of commuters have been warned to brace themselves for massive disruption this week when train workers stage the first of a string of two-day strikes.

Bosses at National Express East Anglia said they 'strongly recommend' that people do not try to travel on their train services on Thursday and Friday because industrial action means the service will be 'very limited'.

Drivers' union ASLEF and the Rail Maritime Transport (RMT) union have called the strike action, which will see members walk out in protest at pay and conditions from a minute after midnight on Thursday until a minute before midnight on Friday.

While bosses at National Express East Anglia said it was too early to say which services will be most seriously affected by the strikes, the worst case scenario is that none run at all.

The company runs services between Norwich and London Liverpool Street, via Ipswich, along with services from and to Cambridge, which stop at Thetford and Wymondham.

Other local services which could be badly hit include trains from and to Sheringham, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, but services from King's Lynn run by First Capital Connect will run as normal.

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Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, said: 'If members from both trades unions take industrial action on these days we would not expect to be able to run any train services, but we will update everyone if this situation changes.

'We are extremely disappointed that the ASLEF and RMT unions have called this industrial action over their salary demands, despite lengthy negotiations where we have offered the unions a salary increase above the rate of inflation.'

Passengers will be entitled to a refund for that day's travel if strike action does take place.

The company will not be putting on extra buses to compensate for the expected disruption to its trains, but suggested that people travelling from Norwich to London should consider travelling to Ely via East Midlands trains and then switching to the First Capital Connect service to London.

A spokesman for Anglian Coaches said they would have vehicles on standby and would assess the situation on both days while Gussy Alamein, spokesman for bus company First, said they had no plans to put on extra services.

Norfolk County Council reminded people from rural areas who might have to resort to driving into Norwich to make use of the park and ride service.

The misery for train travellers could continue over the summer. The unions are planning further strikes on Thursday, August 6 to Friday, August 7; Thursday, August 13 to Friday, August 14 and Thursday, August 20 to Friday, August 21.

ASLEF members working on East Midland Trains, which runs services from Norwich to Peterborough, Nottingham and Liverpool, had been planning to strike on Friday and yesterday , but that action was called off after 10 hours of talks last Wednesday.

But so far the talks with National Express East Anglia have failed to lead to a similar breakthrough.

Andy Morrison, the lead ASLEF officer in talks with the company, said: 'The company refuses to present us with a clear picture of their finances. In its report to shareholders, it says it will remain profitable. In its talks with us, it says it will not.'

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: 'RMT members have shown in this ballot that they are not prepared to be the victims of the National Express franchise chaos and that they are determined to fight for a decent pay rise and for decent working conditions.'

More details of alternative journey options will be available on the National Rail Enquiries website at

Keep checking for the latest news on the strike.