A leading rail union is warning of industrial action over the introduction of new trains it said could lead to the axing of guards and buffet cars.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has written to the Government making it clear it will ballot for industrial action if guards and buffet cars are not retained on the new Hitachi fleet, set to be introduced on First Great Western and East Coast services.
The union said that under the Intercity Express Programme signed off by the Government, the new fleet - built in Japan and reassembled in the North East by Hitachi - has the capacity to run on driver-only operation, would strip out buffet cars in favour of more seats and could lead to the current in-house fleet maintenance being hived-off to a third party.
Mick Cash, RMT acting general secretary, said: "It defies belief that anyone in their right mind would seriously consider running these inter-city services on a driver-only basis, but the design of the fleet allows for just that in terms of the control panels.
"It is sheer profiteering to strip out the buffet cars and replace them with trolleys. Not only does that undermine the service to passengers but it also denies staff their one place of refuge and rest on these long-range routes.
"RMT is also deeply concerned about the future of the fleet maintenance, which is once again plunged into uncertainty with our members jobs and futures left in the balance.
"RMT is demanding answers and assurances from both the Government and the train companies. If those assurances aren't forthcoming we will move into dispute and begin preparations for ballots."