Train managers strike over safety on Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough services
East Midlands Railway crews will walk out on eight Sundays during August and September
Train managers on services through Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough are to strike on eight Sundays in August and September in an ongoing row over safety.
Rail, Martime and Transport union (RMT) chiefs say their members cannot keep passengers safe on the electric units used by East Midlands Railway since May.
The trains are built in four-car units with drivers cabs at each end so managers cannot walk through the entire train when they are coupled together to form eight or 12-car services.
East Midlands Railway says the Class 360 units were used for 17 years by Greater Anglia with no managers at all.
In addition to striking on Sundays between August 8 and September 26, the RMT said managers will refuse to work on any 12-car commuter services to and from London St Pancras.
An East Midlands Railway statement said: “The safety of our customers and our staff will never be comprised or put at risk.
"This strike action by the RMT is completely unwarranted and unjustified.
“EMR consulted with the RMT for six months before these trains were brought into service and the RMT signed the resulting risk assessment.
"Every EMR Connect service includes a safety-critical train manager on board – which is an enhancement to the previous 17 years where they have operated in other parts of the county with only a driver.
"Furthermore, these trains have been in customer service since May and there has not been a single operational or safety incident due to their method of operation."
East Midlands Railway says there will be a "limited impact" on services and it plans to run roughly 80 per cent of normal trains, although only one train per hour will run between Corby and London St Pancras instead of the usual two from 12.30pm.
The Class 360s were due for refurbishment before being introduced on Northamptonshire services as part of the £1.5billion Midland Mainline electrification programme. But delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic pushed back those plans.
Despite complaints from passengers over few peak-hour services, East Midlands Railway insists customer satisfaction for Class.360 services is at 80 percent, which is the highest satisfaction score at present across all EMR routes by a significant margin.
EMR claims the RMT expects to see one train manager per four car set — which would mean three on a 12-car service, although it says the union has failed to produce any safety case or evidence of any kind to justify this demand.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch, insisted: “This dispute is about safety.
“East Midlands Railway has introduced new working arrangements for Class 360 trains without any formal agreement with RMT, the union that represents Train Managers working the service.
“RMT believes that the Class 360 method of working that the company has imposed is not safe and that a second safety critical person, preferably a train manager, should be in each portion of the multi-unit trains. The union remains available for talks.”