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Caledonian Sleeper services halted by 48-hour strikes from today

Caledonian Sleeper workers are set to walk out for 48 hours from tonight (22 December) after more failed talks between RMT union members and Serco.

The row was originally sparked by union concerns over more than 200 alleged train defects which it claims pose safety threat. These included disconnected smoke detectors, lighting and heating systems not working, lack of hot water in some coaches, air conditioning problems throughout the summer, “serious problems with a huge number of wheel flats” leading to cancelled services, a “pungent smell” from toilets and loss of power during journeys.

The two parties met for ditch-talks at ACAS last night, which ended without agreement just before midnight. Union members will strike from 6.30pm, effectively halting services.

RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “The poor service to passengers, in conjunction with the company’s failure to address the issues raised by RMT representatives and officials in talks right up to the wire late last night, reached the point where the union decided enough is enough and left us with no option but to put on industrial action before someone is injured.

“That action now goes ahead. Serco never had any intention of taking the talks process seriously and have treated both staff and public with complete contempt throughout.”

But Peter Strachan, Caledonian Sleeper’s managing director, said they remain open to discussion to avoid disruption to passengers, adding: “Both Serco, and more importantly over 1,000 of our paying passengers, are being hugely inconvenienced by this wholly unnecessary action by the RMT in the run-up to Christmas.”

The operator has been forced to cancel trains and refund passengers in light of the strike. There will be no further services operating before Christmas.

Separately, Strachan told RTM in a statement: "We attended further talks at ACAS on Monday with every intention of working with the RMT to resolve this dispute. I am therefore extremely disappointed that we have not been able to do so given the many and varied issues that they have raised have either been resolved or are in the process of being resolved through a robust and detailed repair and maintenance plan. 

“We are doing everything we can to help our guests arrange alternative transport and to get any stranded passengers to Scotland. We have also arranged an additional late night seated train service from London Euston to Glasgow on both evenings.” 

The union’s strike ballot went 9:1 in favour of industrial action.

Disputes between the Caledonian Sleeper and RMT are longstanding, with the operator intensely criticised in August for having to remove all passengers from a seated car on an overnight Highlander service after a technical fault with the motor alternator, which controls the heat and light.

But at the time, a spokesperson told RTM that there was a fault in one carriage only, with the car withdrawn from service at Euston and all passengers upgraded into berth.

In a separate incident, RMT claimed that a different fault caused a fire in the catering area, but a Caledonian Sleeper spokesperson told RTM this was “completely inaccurate” and that there was no fire.

Yet a union spokesperson said both faults “shined a spotlight on the fact that there’s actually a more deep-seated problem with that particular contract and the fleet”.

“There’s clearly an endemic underlying problem with that operation that they’ve taken on the Scottish sleeper service that needs to be sorted out”, the spokesperson said at the time.


Stuart B   23/12/2015 at 05:24

Two (contested) incidents do not constitute an "endemic underlying problem". And disconnected smoke detectors might be due to passenger vandalism. That said, the list of other incidents is not likely to instill confidence in the hearts of future passengers, including me. Assuming they've been properly documented, including photo or video images that are so easy to capture in this digital age, these situations must be addressed. But why wait until labour negotiations to bring them up? Is there no regulatory agency that should be looking at these serious problems? In the meantime, striking in the hours leading up to Christmas challenges Ebenezer Scrooge for coldheartedness. Bah, humbug.

Simon   23/12/2015 at 09:38

This strike has obviously inconvenienced a lot of people and I believe that the new coaches are being produced as I speak however it is a shame that these cannot arrive earlier than 2018 as I foresee that the issues around the current fleet of coaches will continue until the main issues are sorted. Does not bode well for the foreseeable future and the current set up of the sleeper operations with the various well publicised failures and farces which have plagued the service since Serco took over earlier this year. It seems the issues around the 92s is also something which no one including Serco know will be sorted but given that a short term solution to this issue has been the hiring in of class 90s from FL does mean the services can run if of course the coaching stock is not broken.

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