A rail union is warning of possible industrial action over the introduction of new high-speed trains which are set to be built in Newton Aycliffe.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has written to the Government making it clear it will ballot for industrial action if guards and buffet cars are not retained on the new Hitachi fleet, which will be assembled at the Japanese firm’s £82m factory on Aycliffe Business Park.
The union said that under the Intercity Express Programme, signed off by the Government, the new fleet has the capacity to run on driver-only operation, would strip out buffet cars in favour of more seats and could lead to the current in-house fleet maintenance being hived-off to a third party.
Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, said: “It defies belief that anyone in their right mind would seriously consider running these inter-city services on a driver-only basis, but the design of the fleet allows for just that in terms of the control panels.
“It is sheer profiteering to strip out the buffet cars and replace them with trolleys. Not only does that undermine the service to passengers but it also denies staff their one place of refuge and rest on these long-range routes.
“RMT is also deeply concerned about the future of the fleet maintenance, which is once again plunged into uncertainty with our members jobs and futures left in the balance.
“RMT is demanding answers and assurances from both the Government and the train companies. If those assurances aren’t forthcoming we will move into dispute and begin preparations for ballots.”
Hitachi’s factory on Aycliffe Business Park is scheduled to be ready by late summer 2015 and is expected to employ 730 workers when open for business.