LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of rail passengers face travel chaos in parts of southeast England and a key route into London on Thursday as workers on the National Express East Anglia franchise go on strike for 48 hours over pay.
Services through Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex will be affected and the action will disrupt many lines in and out of London, including trains for Stansted Airport, Southend and Colchester.
Operator National Express East Anglia said the strike by Rail and Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Aslef members would severely hit the London to Norwich line which carries some two million commuters a week.
Many of those are City workers who stream into London through Liverpool Street station. The RMT said it expected to completely shut down the East Anglia branch.
Three more 48-hour strikes are planned throughout August if negotiations fail to make any headway.
In a statement National Express East Anglia branded the action unrealistic and unnecessary.
“We have offered salary increases above the rate of inflation, and remain available at any time for discussions to reach a sensible, affordable and fair agreement,” said managing director Andrew Chivers.
The RMT countered by saying that National Express was putting profits first, ahead of the travelling public and its workforce.
The government this month stripped National Express of its key East Coast service and warned the company, a takeover target, that it faced losing further franchises.
“National Express have already created chaos through the impending collapse of their franchise on the East Coast route and under the franchise rules they should be given notice to quit on East Anglia and C2C lines,” Bob Crow, RMT general secretary said.
Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by