Union suspends east coast rail strikes in a move welcomed by Virgin Trains

Travellers to remain unaffected by ongoing discussions 

Virgin Trains has welcomed the decision by the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) to suspend industrial action and return to the table for further discussions.
The RMT suspended the walk-outs yesterday (Tuesday, 16 August) after Virgin Trains repeated its assurances to the union, including one of no compulsory redundancies, as part of changes designed to improve customer experience.
Virgin Trains had promised a full timetable during the three 24-hour stoppages and overtime ban over the bank holiday weekend planned for the east coast route in August.
David Horne, Virgin Trains’ managing director on the east coast route, said: “We’re pleased that the RMT has agreed to suspend industrial action and continue talks.
“We had put in place detailed contingency plans which would have seen our timetable run as normal, nevertheless this news will be welcomed by our customers and people.
“We’re making exciting changes on the east coast as part of the customer-centric revolution which has seen us embark on a £140 million investment programme in our trains and stations.
“We want a service that focuses firmly on the customer and look forward to discussing these further with representatives of the RMT.”
Since taking over the east coast franchise in 2015, Virgin Trains has embarked on an ambitious programme to completely refresh its train interiors. In two years it is planning to introduce a new fleet of faster, greener, more comfortable Azuma trains.
Aligned with this investment, Virgin Trains is making changes to customer-facing roles which will help deliver clearer lines of responsibility for the customer experience on our trains. This will have no impact on safety, and will result in a better experience for customers.
Virgin Trains has given assurances on each point raised by the union at the start of the dispute – such as ruling out any compulsory redundancies as a result of the changes.
The union previously said its members would walk-out for three 24-hour stoppages on the east coast route on Friday, 19 August; Friday, 26 August, and Monday, 29 August. In addition there was an overtime ban planned on Saturday, 27 and Sunday, 28 August.
Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand.
Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.
The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.
Virgin Trains says it’s committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service.
Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.
On the East Coast route, £140 million is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. £21 million has already been invested to completely revamp the existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.
The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo – from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.
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