Rail chaos continues during strike action

Passengers are facing chaos in two-day strike action

Travellers in Norfolk and Suffolk experienced chaotic scenes today during the first day of the rail strike.

The same disruption is expected tomorrow with the second of the two-day strikes called by drivers' union Aslef and the Rail Maritime Transport Union (RMT) due to go ahead, despite talks to end the dispute.

Today's strikes left just six National Express East Anglia train services running between Norwich and London Liverpool Street, with the same number travelling in the opposite direction.

There was even worse news for passengers travelling locally as no rural services were operated from Norwich, with the same situation expected tomorrow.

Commuters and daytrippers arriving at Norwich rail station today on the 4.30pm service from London, which arrived about 20 minutes late, spoke of their hardship.

Gill Draper had treated her daughter Polly, who was 12 yesterday, to see 'Jersey Boys' in London, and the strike meant they had to cut short the birthday treat and return home early.

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Mrs Draper, from Lowestoft, who was also with her daughter Kate Draper, 23, and Polly's friend, Maisie Wright, 11, said: 'We had to come back three and a half hours early because we were worried that if we left it too late, we would not get on the train. It meant we could not enjoy the whole day in London to celebrate Polly's birthday, as we had planned.

'The train was also very crowded with a lot of people standing up, but at least they did run some services.'

Jan Jay, from Kirby Bedon, was waiting for her son Nicholas Jay, 24, who lives and works in London.

She said: 'He said he had waited at Liverpool Street station for three hours and had finally been able to get a train home, which obviously inconveniences everyone.

'But I have some sympathy for the strikers. I have no sympathy at all for National Express. I think it has been run diabolically and every time I have travelled on the service it has been awful.'

Liz Jackson, from Thorpe St Andrew, said: 'It has not affected me that much, as I normally get the 7.40am service, which was running today. It just meant I could not come back a few hours earlier in the afternoon if I wanted to, because so many services had been cancelled.'

Joanne and Duane Penrose, from North Walsham, had booked to return to Norwich on the 2.30pm service which was cancelled.

Mrs Penrose said: 'We went down on Wednesday and just had a break from our five children. Obviously we booked it before they announced the strike. Because of the skeleton service it added about two hours to our journey.'

Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said she had to wait three hours in London to get a train home.

Earlier in the day commuters had vented their anger at the strikes, but others were more resigned to the problems.

A NXEA spokeswoman said tonight that tomorrow's strike would go ahead, but added: 'The alternative timetable ran well today although it was a reduced service compared to a normal working day.'

The RMT 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.

Aslef general secretary Keith Norman said: 'The dispute is not just about pay, but also about the poor industrial relations that have existed in this company for a long time.'

Earlier Norwich North MP Chloe Smith called on all parties involved to resolve the issues at hand and get services back on track, quickly.

Services running tomorrow are the same as today - 5.40am, 6.40am, 7.40am, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm from Norwich to London, and 8.30am, 9.30am, 10.30am, 4.30pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm in the opposite direction.