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Rail bosses urged to think again

PUBLISHED: 08:57 25 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:48 12 July 2010

Railway bosses are facing renewed pressure to back track on controversial plans to shelve hundreds of jobs and scrap the popular restaurant car on services between Norwich and London.

Railway bosses are facing renewed pressure to back track on controversial plans to shelve hundreds of jobs and scrap the popular restaurant car on services between Norwich and London.

National Express last week unveiled proposals to shed 314 jobs including staff at its Norwich based call centre.

And plans to ditch its award-winning restaurant car have sparked uproar among passengers and MPs, who have vowed to raise the issue in the House of Commons.

Yesterday Norfolk County councillors joined the fray by urging the rail firm to think again.

The authority gave cross-party support to a motion that “demands that National Express reconsiders its proposals and lives up to the expectation of the franchise it has signed to deliver, and to provide a quality service for customers.”

Councillors also called upon the Department for Transport to enforce the conditions of the franchise.

Critics of the plans believe National Express could be in breach of its franchise with its restaurant plans, but the firm has insisted it is not breaking any rules

Labour's Sue Whitaker, who

raised the issue, said the

franchise agreement was

riddled with inconsistencies.

“It could be a field day for the lawyers,” she said. “In one part of the franchise agreement it talks about providing a buffet service, but elsewhere there is reference to a restaurant service on some

trains.

“It seems ironic that we have this in the same week as the announcement on the A11 dualling,” she said. “It seems like one step forward and two steps back.”

She said the changes were difficult to justify at a time when the firm had posted £90m pre-tax profits and a 9pc increase in revenue.

“What's not clear is whether they are looking to get rid of the call centre altogether,” she added. “I would question whether a statutory consultation has been carried out as this seems mighty quick.

Tory councillor Chris Howe warned that the plans could affect Norfolk's ability to attract inward investment.

“Our business partners all agree that the railway service is absolutely crucial to their continued remaining in the area, and the way they can effectively run their businesses,” he said.

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