During the planned nationwide rail strikes for three dates at the end of June, only 22 percent of passenger train services will run – most on major connections to and from London.
Members of the RMT rail union at Network Rail and 13 train operators voted 8:1 to strike over jobs, wages and conditions, and will organize 24-hour strikes on June 21, 23 and 25.
According to the RMT, it is “the largest dispute on the network since 1989” and will involve 40,000 employees.
A senior rail source said the plan was to run “as decent rail service as we can.”
Only about half of the UK’s rail network will be open on strike days, from around 7.30am to 6.30pm.
At Network Rail, the infrastructure provider, 5,000 signalmen play the most crucial roles in the day-to-day management of the track.
Management and other staff are expected to cover about half of the network for about 11 hours a day. Many lines will not see trains.
Wales and Scotland are expected to see a much smaller proportion of their networks open.
Across the UK, 4,500 of the usual 20,000 passenger trains are expected to run per day.
The main connections to and from London operating clockwise from the Thames Estuary are:
- HS1 from London St Pancras to Ashford (including Eurostar services to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam)
- London to Gatwick Airport and Brighton
- London Waterloo to Reading, Winchester and Southampton
- London Paddington to Reading, Taunton. Exeter, Plymouth, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff
- London Paddington to Heathrow Airport (all terminals)
- London Marylebone to Banbury
- West Coast Main Line from London Euston to Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow
- East Midlands Railway from London St Pancras to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield
- East Coast main line from London King’s Cross to Leeds, York and Newcastle
- London King’s Cross to Cambridge and Ely
- London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport and Cambridge
In addition, a limited number of major routes will operate that do not touch London:
- Glasgow to Edinburgh
- Cardiff to the Valleys
- Birmingham to Leeds
- Isle of Wight
- East-west connections from Liverpool via Manchester and Leeds to Cleethorpes and Middlesbrough, with some trains to Manchester Airport
Even on lines that run, not every station will be open. For example, Avanti West Coast says: “Due to the different signaling system used on some parts of the West Coast mainline, which requires more resources to operate, the intercity operator cannot stop trains at Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield, Stockport , as well as Runcorn, on strike days and these stations will not be open.
Strict limits apply to the amount of replacement traffic signals on all lines in use.
Due to the limited opening hours, the main terminal services will leave London at:
- Bristol 4:33 PM
- Cardiff 4:27 p.m.
- Birmingham 3:50 pm
- Manchester 3.40 pm
- Sheffield 3:31 PM
- Leeds 15:05
- Newcastle 3:00 PM
- Edinburgh 2:00 PM
The union action is timed to affect services immediately before and after the strike dates, as well as the intervening Wednesday and Friday. Signalers in particular will not work at night, so the first wave of trains on many routes will be very limited.
The affected train operators are Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia, GWR, LNER, Northern, Southeastern and South Western Railway.
At one train operator, GTR, the support was too low to pass the threshold for a strike. GTR normally has the highest passenger volume of any carrier – commuting on Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Northern services in South East England.
The dispute is expected to wipe out up to £150m in ticket revenue, with tens of millions of pounds in costs also incurred for engineering works that can’t take place.
The damage to forward earnings will increase if leisure and business travelers abandon plans to travel by train later in the summer.
Passengers with Advance tickets are generally entitled to a full refund on strike days, even if the train is running. Train operators will not honor claims for alternative transport.
Of the 71 percent of members who voted, 89 percent were in favor of strike action. This represents 63 percent of the workforce that voted, with more than 25,000 employees.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has vowed “a sustained campaign of industrial action that will shut down the rail system”.
The union says: “Network Rail and the train operators have subjected their staff to multi-year wage freezes and plan to cut thousands of jobs making the railways unsafe.”
Higher rail sources maintain that safety will not be compromised by modernization and that a reduction in workforce
The white-collar railway association, TSSA, is threatening what its secretary general called “a summer of discontent.” Members are being consulted ahead of a possible strike vote if wages fail to keep pace with inflation – expected to reach double digits by summer.