More than 40,000 workers at Network Rail (NR) and 14 train operating companies are set to strike in England this week in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on Wednesday July 27, potentially crippling rail services across the country.
Train drivers from eight different companies including West Midlands Trains (WMR) will also strike this Saturday (30 July), meaning there will be no service on any WMR route due to the strike action. Passengers will not be able to travel with WMR as a result.
NR pointed out that all train operators may be affected by the July 27 strike, whether they have an individual dispute with the RMT or not, as signallers control train movements across the entire country.
West Midlands Railway passengers are being advised to only travel if essential on Wednesday, as trains will only run between 7.30am and 6.30pm on a limited number of routes. The companies affected by the RMT strikes are: Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and GTR (including Gatwick Express).
Which companies are affected?
West Midlands Railway
WMR routes with a limited service on Wednesday 27 July from 7.30am to 6.30pm are:
- Cross-City Line (Lichfield Trent Valley – Redditch/Bromsgrove via Birmingham New Street) – 2 trains per hour
- Wolverhampton – Birmingham – 1 train per hour
- Birmingham New Street – Birmingham International – 1 train per hour
No trains will run on any other WMR route, including all routes via Birmingham Snow Hill, Birmingham-Shrewsbury, Birmingham-Worcester-Hereford and Nuneaton-Leamington Spa.
On Saturday 30 July, there will no service on any WMR route due.
Great Western Railway
A significantly limited service will operate on Wednesday - passengers are advised to make alternative travel arrangements and only travel if absolutely necessary. Trains will also be disrupted on Thursday.
On Saturday (30 July), an extremely limited service will only operate on the routes below:
- Bristol Temple Meads-London Paddington
- Bristol Temple Meads-Cardiff Central
- Reading to Oxford
- Reading to Basingstoke
No other GWR services will run.
Cross Country services on Wednesday and Thursday will be affected by the strikes.
CrossCountry will be running a normal service on Saturday (30 July) - but if you have a connecting ticket on to London Overground, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern, West Midlands Railway or London Northwestern Railway, you are advised to check their website for full details on how to complete your journey.
Avanti West Coast
Passengers are being advised to only travel by rail if ‘absolutely necessary’ on Wednesday and Thursday.
The timetable will be reduced significantly on Wednesday and Thursday - and those services that do run are expected to be very busy.
A statement from the company, read: “If your journey is essential, please plan ahead as your entire journey will likely be severely disrupted. The days either side of industrial action will also be affected. We will announce the revised timetables as soon as possible.
“Any customers with existing tickets for travel from 26 to 28 July can use those tickets anytime between now and 29 July. Customers with existing tickets for travel from 18 to 21 August can use those tickets anytime between now and 22 August.”
What are the strikes about?
The biggest rail strikes in three decades took place last month (June) due to the dispute over pay, jobs and working conditions. NR is introducing reforms. It comes as fewer passengers are travelling by train because of the pandemic, which has led to more people working from home.
They say a two-year, 8% deal with a no-compulsory-redundancy guarantee and other benefits and extras was on the table but the RMT left the talks.
What will be the impact of the strike?
The strike will affect passengers travelling for holidays or attending events including the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham the following day (Thursday 28 July). Although no strike is taking place on Thursday, there is expected to be much disruption from strike action the day before.
NR expects a “very limited” timetable will be available across the country on the strike day, with around 20% of services running and some parts of the country with no rail services. Special timetables are set to be published this Saturday but trains will start later and finish much earlier than usual. Passengers should expect disruption and only travel if necessary.
Contingency plans drawn up
Contingency plans including extra buses are coaches are being drawn up as the strikes threaten to disrupt the Games.
A spokesperson for Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has said they are confident spectators will get to the Games despote the strikes going ahead. At a Birmingham City Council meeting, cabinet member for transport Liz Clements also attempted to allay concerns. She said detailed traffic management plans were in place and it was an opportunity to encourage people to get out of cars.
More than a million visitors are expected to come to the city for the event. Asked if there were enough drivers for replacement buses for spectators, the TfWM spokesperson said: “We are working with our transport suppliers and remain confident that all are able to supply the necessary workforce that we require.”
They also said: “We are urging visitors to use public transport to travel to Birmingham and the West Midlands and are ensuring there is sufficient capacity for them to do so. This includes, as a contingency for possible disruption of rail services due to industrial action, extra coach and bus services.
“We have confirmed 50 extra coaches running services into Birmingham and the West Midlands from towns, cities and airports across the UK including London, Manchester, Heathrow, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff. These are available to book now.”
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