Why are the rail workers striking? When are the train strikes in Scotland and the UK this week?
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has confirmed industrial action will go ahead on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, although disruption is possible for the rest of the week.
The Government has been told that the planned rail strikes could devastate Britain's post-Covid recovery and cost key industries over a billion pounds. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UK Hospitality, warned tourism and leisure businesses were already fragile after pandemic lockdowns and would take a "big hit".
"At the best, we think it's going to take a hit to hospitality revenues of over half a billion pounds,” said Ms Nicholls while speaking to Times Radio. "But that presupposes that many people will travel on those shoulder days when the trains and the Tubes will still be disrupted - it could be more significant than that. If you look across the whole tourism, and leisure and theatre industries as a whole, you are definitely looking at an economic hit of over a billion pounds."
Ms Nicholls went on to note that tourism and hospitality businesses had already been damaged by the cost-of-living crisis and urged the Government, rail networks, and the RMT to reach an agreement.
"Next week's strikes are so devastating because... we were starting to get back on our feet, starting to rebuild those cash reserves," she said. "This is a big hit next week where we will lose the best part of a week's income for many of those town centre, and particularly central London, businesses. We would urge all sides in this dispute to try and come together to resolve this issue so that we don't put commuters, visitors, tourists at a disadvantage and we don't damage our businesses."
Here’s why the rail workers are striking and what you can expect in Scotland this week.
Why are rail workers striking?
Tens of thousands of rail workers are striking as thousands of jobs are cut across the rail networks and remainng workers face below inflation pay rises, according to the RMT general secretary Mick Lynch.
"It has to be restated that the source of these disputes is the decision by the Tory government to cut £4bn of funding from our transport systems - £2bn from National Rail and £2bn from Transport for London," Mr Lynch said.
The Government has urged the Union to abandon the strike action, with a Department for Transport spokesperson stating: "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 £16bn - 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."
When are the train strikes in Scotland?
Strikes on Network Rail and 13 other train operators are expected on three days next week, while London Underground workers will walk out on Tuesday. ScotRail will be running roughly 180 services per day, compared to the 2,150 usually on offer.
Along with other national services, ScotRail will be affected by strikes on Tuesday June 21st, Thursday June 23rd, and Saturday June 25th. Trains will therefore only be able to operate the following services between 7.30am and 6.30pm:
- Edinburgh to Glasgow via Falkirk High, two trains per hour
- Edinburgh to Bathgate, two trains per hour
- Glasgow to Hamilton/Larkhall, two trains per hour
- Glasgow to Lanark, two trains per hour
- Edinburgh to Glasgow via Shotts, one train per hour
You can find specific train times and disruption to ScotRail services on their website.
What to do amid rail strikes in Scotland
Commuters are advised to avoid travelling on strike days unless absolutely necessary, but there are ways to find alternative routes to travel into city and town centres. For example, Stagecoach, the country's biggest bus and coach operator, said that next week's bookings for its Megabus service had spiked by 85%.
"With the upcoming train strikes fast approaching, many people will be wondering what to do if they bought a ticket and have now had their train cancelled,” said Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel. "If you can't travel and you have an unused ticket, you should be able to cancel and get a fee-free refund. A full refund also applies if you have started your journey but are unable to complete it due to delay or cancellations, and so have returned to your departure point."
David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, also offered advice to Scottish customers.
“It is very unfortunate to see such widespread disruption across the whole of the Great Britain rail network and we know this will be frustrating for ScotRail customers,” he said. “Regrettably, this strike action by RMT members of Network Rail means that we will not be able to operate the vast majority of our services during the period of strike action. Customers should expect significant disruption to services next week, including on the days between strike action.
“On the five routes where we are able to operate a very limited service on strike days, we’re advising customers to seek alternative means of transport and to only travel if they really need to.”
Additional reporting by PA.
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