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East Coast cut jobs to boost first class travel perks

19 January 2011

Taxpayer owned East Coast is axing scores of jobs to pay for free travel perks for first class passengers, the TSSA union revealed today.

The firm, now run by the DfT after National Express handed back the keys on the loss making route in 2009, is axing on board customer service staff in standard class and travel centre staff to give free alcohol and sandwiches to first class passengers from March.

It has warned the rail unions that it is looking to axe more than 100 jobs on the Kings Cross to Aberdeen route-around 10 per cent of all on board, platform and travel centre posts.

Gerry Doherty, union general secretary, accused the firm of turning back the clock to the Edwardian era by sacking staff to boost first class travel.

"I know that Edwardian dramas like Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs are all the rage but I never thought they would be used by a railway company as a basis for its industrial relations policy in this day and age.

"Here we are in the 21st century with a company running Toffs Specials with standard class passengers having their food trolleys scrapped altogether while first class passengers can drink as much beer and sandwiches as they want.

"It is an insult to both hard working staff and loyal passengers. Ministers should stop it at once."

National Express axed all first class dining cars in a failed attempt to cut costs when it was running the line which will now be kept in Government hands until 2013 when it will once again go back to the private sector.

Among the posts being axed are 46 on board staff who serve tea and sandwiches in standard class and a further 30 travel centre staff at main line stations at King Cross, Peterboroough, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

"It is simply wrong to axe jobs to fund first class travel perks," added the union leader.

"What will they think of next-bringing back the Fat Controller to boss the staff around?".

He said it would make more sense to fully restore the first class dining cars run by GNER which would encourage first class travel and create extra catering jobs.

Cutting back on travel centre staff would also force passengers to use ticket machines which sold more expensive and a more limited range of tickets.

"Ministers will be sending out the wrong message to all the other private train operators if they allow this to happen," he warned.

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