As Brits across the country gear up for another warm week in Bedfordshire, from today (Tuesday, June 21) several rail and London Underground services will be disrupted. This comes as more than 40,000 staff at Network Rail and 13 train operators are expected to go on strike.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ (RMT) union has said it will “shut down” the country’s railway network on June 21, 23 and 25 after talks over pay and redundancies fell through.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said the strikes planned for Tuesday June 21, 23 and 25 could disrupt teenagers taking their GCSE examinations. Additionally, people attending the Glastonbury festival, Wimbledon and other events are advised to check their journey route’s before setting off.
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Shapps added that the RMT union had been repeatedly urged to focus on negotiations rather than the “damaging” industrial action which will lead to the biggest rail strike since 1989. He said: “Many people who do not get paid if they can’t get to work face losing money at a time they simply can’t afford to.”
Secretary of State for Transport, and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps said: “These strikes are incredibly premature and we will use every possible lever to ensure that the public is protected in the future in particular. I can’t over-stress our determination to get the right outcome for the travelling public in the end on this, even if the unions insist on putting the country through considerable pain in the meantime.”
Meanwhile, Union leaders have accused the UK Government of “inflaming” tensions over the rail dispute only days before expected train and Tube strikes. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government has the power to help end this dispute but rather than working in good faith to find a negotiated settlement, ministers are inflaming tensions and trying to pitch worker against worker.
“Instead of threatening to do a P&O on these workers and rip up their rights, ministers should be getting people around the table to help agree a fair deal.” Ms O’Grady said nobody takes strike action lightly but maintained that rail staff have been left with “no other option”.
She added: “Many rail staff who will be hit hardest – such as caterers and cleaners – are on low and average earnings. It’s insulting to ask them to take yet another real-terms pay cut when rail companies took £500 million in profits during the pandemic. If these cuts go ahead thousands of safety-critical and frontline jobs will be lost, with train services at risk too. We need a better vision for the future of rail than commuters packed on unsafe trains like sardines.”
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A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT is going ahead with industrial action. The Government committed £16 billion – or £600 per household – to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker lost their job.
“The railway is still on life support, with passenger numbers 25% down and anything that drives away even more of them risks killing services and jobs. Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail and they might never return.”
In some areas no trains will be running at all although there will be a skeleton service on some routes into London. Network Rail have warned that the strikes may cause six days of disruption causing a knock on effect for services for days in between the strikes such as Wednesday, June 22 and Friday, June 24.
Roads are set to be busy as a result of the rail strikes this week, so BedfordshireLive recommends checking our traffic and travel page to stay up to date with what’s happening across the county.
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