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The BBC's Simon Montague
"The CBI says the dispute is worrying for British business"
 real 56k

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"There is some support from the public"
 real 56k

Steve Bence, Assoc. of Train Operating Companies
"We are obviously very disappointed at the prospect of strike action"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
Strike disruption on railways
Guard blows a whistle on a rail platform
The strikes are over the role of guards in ensuring safety
Rail passengers across the UK face more disruption after train guards voted to go on strike.

Two 24-hour strikes will be held on Monday 25 June and Wednesday 4 July, and will affect 21 of the rail operating companies.

The RMT rail union announced the decision after a ballot of its 5,200 guard members.

The few unaffected
Island Line: Strikes rejected
West Anglia Great Northern: No guards
Thameslink: No guards
Gatwick Express: No guards
Great Eastern: Reballot due
Union members at the Isle of Wight's Island Line rejected industrial action so services will not be affected.

Great Eastern may also be unaffected, although members are to be reballoted for technical reasons.

Three other companies - West Anglia Great Northern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express - have no guards and will also be spared any strike action.

But all other train operators face severe disruption on those dates.

Safety issue

RMT said guards voted "resoundingly in favour" of strikes, with an average of four to one supporting the action.

It's about having a human being on the train who can help if something goes wrong

Bob Crow, RMT assistant general secretary
The union is angry that guards no longer have responsibility for train service safety under changes to railway rules made in 1999.

They have said they are being reduced to the level of "Kit-Kat sellers".

There is also concern that some train companies might do away with them altogether.

Bob Crow, assistant general secretary of RMT, said on Tuesday the public would support the strikes once the issues were understood.

"Our members have been working under these new rules for the past 18 months and they do not believe that they are safe.

The union... should not try to hold a gun to the heads of the industry and passengers

George Muir, Association of Train Operators
"People might say this is another `jobs for life' campaign. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"It's about having a human being on the train who can help if something goes wrong."

But Anthony Smith, national director of the Rail Passengers Council, said the news was "very, very disappointing".

"Management and unions must get together again to sort this out," he said.

"The biggest impact will be, as usual, on passengers.

"Just when the railway was starting to get back together after Hatfield... this was not the news the public wanted to hear."

'Likely to go ahead'

The Association of Train Operators said there was "no good reason" for the strikes.

RMT assistant general secretary Bob Crow
Bob Crow: Waiting for Railway Safety to respond
Director general George Muir said: "The union should follow the established procedures for making changes to the rules and should not try to hold a gun to the heads of the industry and passengers.

"We want to find a peaceful solution to this issue and are ready to continue talks."

But Mr Crow said it was now up to the operators to sit down with the RMT, and jointly make a case to Railway Safety, the subsidiary of Railtrack which makes the rules.

He said that the action could be called off if the association backed the guards' stance.

Mr Crow also urged Railway Safety to respond to the guards' concerns in time for the strikes to be called off.

But BBC correspondent Russel Hayes said the company wrote its safety rules "on the basis of very careful risk assessments".

"And I have to say that it looks unlikely... that Railway Safety is going to change its mind over this," he said.

"It still seems likely that these strikes will go ahead."

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