Train strike misery could put millions off rail travel

GMB: Richard Madeley quizzes Labour MP on rail strikes

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An entire generation of Brits could be put off travelling by train due to this winter’s rail strikes, ministers have warned. This week marks the worst for rail disruption in the past 30 years, as the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) and Aslef will stage walkouts spanning almost every day.

The RMT will hold two 48 hour strikes on Tuesday January 3 and Friday January 8, while on Thursday January 7 (the day in between) will see Aslef take industrial action.

Around 80,000 trains are expected to be cancelled this week, with 16 million journeys at risk of being affected.

There are concerns from the Government that the rail industry, which is still running fewer services than before the pandemic due to more people working from home, may be irrevocably damaged by the strikes.

The industrial action is costing the taxpayer millions of pounds, yet RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has refused to back down, blaming “unprecedented ministerial interference” for hampering negotiations.

He said: “The train companies say their hands have been tied by the Government, while the Government, which does not employ us, says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.

“We are always happy to negotiate — we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk — but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.”

A Government source said: “This is an act of self-harm — a generation of passengers will just write off the railways.

“We’re talking about permanent scarring. The longer the strikes continue, the greater the risk.”

Passengers have been warned to plan ahead if travelling by train this week as “significant disruption” is expected.

Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “No one wants to see these strikes go ahead and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.

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“We would advise passengers to only travel if it is absolutely necessary during this period, allow extra time and check when their first and last train will depart.”

Strikes over the festive period is estimated to have cost the hospitality industry £1.5billion in lost sales.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “This piles further misery on commuters, visitors and tourists as well as hard-pressed hospitality workers and businesses already vulnerable due to the loss of vital pre-Christmas sales.

“The sector has struggled to recover from Covid and these protracted rail strikes since May have made that bounceback much tougher. Enough is enough; this needs to end now.”

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