Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Thursday, 30 July 2009 14:13 UK

Rail strike 'cripples' services

Picket line at Norwich train station
The strike is by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Aslef unions

A strike by rail unions has caused major disruption on National Express East Anglia train services, unions say.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Aslef unions said the 48-hour action, part of a dispute over pay and conditions, had "crippled" services.

It affects Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and services into London and Stansted airport.

A limited peak-time service has been staffed by National Express managers but many commuters stayed at home.

National Express had warned it would only be able to run limited services and no replacement buses would be available.

A further three strikes are planned for next month.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union and Aslef said their members "solidly supported" the walkout, which is due to be followed by three further 48-hour stoppages in the coming weeks.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "This strike has been caused by greedy National Express bosses who have soaked up £2.5bn in taxpayer subsidies in the past 10 years and who have milked every penny out of this franchise, while treating their staff like dirt."

These passengers outside Norwich station said they had been affected

Andrew Chivers, managing director of National Express East Anglia, said: "The unions' demands are totally unrealistic, especially in this current economic climate.

"We have offered salary increases above the rate of inflation, and remain available at any time for discussions."

"Strike action is unnecessary, simply not the solution and I would like to apologise to our customers."

One commuter, Juliette Maxam who uses the train between Colchester and Ipswich, told BBC News Online: "I worked from home today as if I had stayed late at work I could have been stranded in Ipswich."

National Express managers say the unions want a 2.5% pay rise, a four-day working week and a 4% increase in the number of train drivers.

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