Biggest UK train strike in decades takes place – full list of routes affected
Rail travelers face a summer of major disruption after workers voted tonight on what is believed to be the biggest strike in more than 25 years.
Members of the RMT union have backed industrial action over wages, working conditions, 2,500 job cuts at Network Rail and reforms the union says will lead to a spate of ticket office closures.
The vast majority of strike elections were passed overwhelmingly last night.
Workers from 13 of the 15 elected companies and from Network Rail voted to strike. Workers at a 14th company, GTR, including Gatwick Express, came forward shortly before a strike.
Workers at only one of the 15 companies, the small Island Line on the Isle of Wight, refused to support strikes.
Overall, the RMT said 71% of eligible voters took part in the vote, with 89% voting for strike action and just 11% voting against.
Strikes could stretch from Scotland to the top of Cornwall as the RMT demands the job cuts be reversed and calls for a pay rise above RPI inflation – currently 11.1% – after two years of the freeze.
Speaking to the Mirror, General Secretary Mick Lynch said blackouts, fuel shortages or empty shelves are a “realistic possibility”.
He said strikes could start as early as mid-June and refused to rule out the possibility that they will continue into next year – or escalate into a general strike.
Below the strike thresholds decreed by David Cameron, ballots in 15 railway companies and Network Rail had to show a turnout of at least 50%. And at least 40% of all voting members had to support the strike, regardless of how many actually voted.
Mr Lynch warned Tory ministers who plan to “close virtually all ticket offices in the UK” meaning the “end of passenger support” as the elderly and vulnerable will be directed to apps and websites.
He said: “Today’s overwhelming support from rail workers is a validation of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no redundancies.
“Our NEC will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage employers to return to the negotiating table and negotiate a reasonable deal with the RMT.”
The following companies voted for strike action and non-strike action:
- network rail
- Chiltern Railway,
- intercity trains,
- Greater Anglia,
- east midlands railway,
- Great Western Railway,
- north trains,
- transpennine express,
- avanti west coast,
- West Midlands trains
The following company voted for non-strike action:
- GTR (including Gatwick Express)
He promised a “rolling campaign” of roadshows in abandoned towns and villages, adding: “This is a normal industrial action. It’s not one with a political agenda.
“The only political agenda set there came from that government. And their agenda is to keep people underpaid and impoverished in order to enforce austerity.”
A larger strike could reduce services to a fifth of the normal weekday timetable, with trains running only on main routes and for part of the day, e.g. B. from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Measures could begin with an overtime ban before accelerating to full-scale strikes if issues are not resolved.
A government source today downplayed claims in the Daily Mail that there could be power outages or empty shelves, but rail bosses were working on contingency plans.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Obviously if it came down to it, we would prioritize the supply chain – food, freight transport and energy.”
Asked whether claims of power outages, fuel shortages or empty shelves were realistic, Mr Lynch said “those things would not happen immediately” and some of it was “hyperbolic”.
But he added: “The freight companies that distribute oil and the food and materials necessary for the economy are concerned that Network Rail and the government will prioritize passenger service.”
When asked if he said those things are a realistic possibility, he replied: “They are a realistic possibility if the dispute continues and we need to escalate the action. I can’t rule anything out.
“But of course if we get a solution, none of that has to happen.”
When asked if things like blackouts would be worth it to push members, he replied, “I think it’s going to be a signal to all working people that they have the ability to fight, they have the ability to organize and to do so The government and the rich in this country are coming to the conclusion that they need to distribute wealth more fairly in society.
“It is not our plan to disrupt people and the economy or society. What we want is a negotiated solution.”
Grant Shapps said 16bn during Covid
Passenger numbers are still below pre-Covid levels. Network Rail warned that strikes will “harm the industry’s recovery from the pandemic, cost millions of pounds and undermine our ability to afford the wage increases we want to make”.
But the RMT has accused ministers of driving the railways into decline and slammed Tory threats to change the strike law to force a minimum number of workers to stay on the job.
And Mr Lynch said it was a “big lie” that train companies are struggling financially after turning a £100m profit while Network Rail’s subcontractors made a £200m profit last year.
He warned of a “hit list” of 1,000 stations on top of Network Rail’s 2,500 job losses from cuts to save £2bn.
Mr Lynch said the Department for Transport and Railways “have told me directly that they plan to do away with ticket offices – that they are obsolete and all users of the railway will need to use apps, websites and digital technology to access the railway.”
“That might be fine for younger people, but for people who don’t have that access … it’s not going to be a very happy experience.”
With the average train driver earning just under £50,000 a year, Mr Lynch insisted that “I don’t think we’ve lost touch” with the Brits, who are bothered by strikes.
He added, “Our members are working-class people living in working-class communities … What most workers have been missing lately is strong unions that have a presence in their communities, and that’s something we need to rebuild.”
Boris Johnson blasted the strikes at a cabinet meeting today, saying the railways need reform after losing a third of their passengers.
He told Cabinet that “railway workers’ salaries have risen by 31% in 10 years,” said No. 10, and “there is no justification for the proposed industrial action, which would cause great hardship for many people across the country.”
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/breaking-biggest-rail-strike-decades-27055172 Biggest UK train strike in decades takes place - full list of routes affected