The dates for nationwide strike action creeping ever closer, and several operators have issued warnings for passengers not to travel, with warnings echoed by Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group.
Passengers are being warned to expect week-long disruption due to industrial action, with the RMT staging strike action on 5, 7 and 9 November. Passengers are advised to only travel by rail if absolutely necessary, allow extra time and check when their first and last train will depart.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “A fair and affordable two-year 8% deal, with heavily discounted travel and an improved offer of job security to January 2025, remains on the table and our team have had extensive conversations with RMT representatives around the terms of a deal.
“Unfortunately, the unions seem to believe the taxpayer should fund bigger pay rises and are more intent on more damaging strikes than working with us to compromise and agree a deal. That means there will be even more disruption for passengers over the next couple of weeks, starting next Saturday (5 November), when we will again have to ask passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary.
Only around 20% of services will operate, and in some parts of the country there will be no rail services at all. A special timetable for 5, 7 and 9 November to be published on 1, 3 and 5 November (check here for updates), but it is certain that trains will start later and finish much earlier than usual, between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
The rail industry is working hard to keep a limited number of trains running despite upcoming national strike action called by the leadership of the RMT that will yet again bring unnecessary and entirely avoidable disruption for passengers.
Thousands of specially trained and fully qualified back-up staff will step in during the walkouts to keep vital services running for those who need them, but passengers are being warned that some parts of the country will have little or no rail services. Passengers are asked to only travel by train if it is absolutely necessary, allow extra time and check when their first and last train will depart.
Passengers are also advised that there is likely to be some disruption in the early morning of the day after each strike – Sunday 6 November, Tuesday 8 November, and Thursday 10 November – as workers return to duties. There is also concern that maintenance trains that keep the leaves clear of slippery autumn leaves will not be able to run overnight, so there may be delays whilst tracks are made safe for the first trains of the day.
A walkout by rail staff will affect the following train operators: Great Western Railway, Avanti West Coast, South Western Railway, Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Northern Trains, South Eastern, Transpennine Express, West Midlands Trains and GTR (including Gatwick Express).
On 5 November there will be very limited London North Eastern Railway (LNER) services running due to a combination of industrial action and engineering work with no services travelling further south than Doncaster. London Underground and Overground services will also be disrupted on Thursday 10 November due to industrial action.
Passengers traveling to Cardiff for the Autumn International match on Saturday 5 November, are advised not to travel by train to and from the match as the RMT and TSSA strikes will see most trains across the Wales and Borders network suspended. Passengers should check with their train operator for more details and go to https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ for travel updates.
Other rail trade unions – TSSA and Unite – are also striking at points over the period, including action short of a strike on six operators.
Andrew Haines said: “These strikes undermine the railway’s recovery from the pandemic and drive passengers away at a time when everyone involved in the railway should be focused on attracting more passengers and freight forwarders to the network, at the same time as building a railway fit for the future. We urge the unions to either allow their members to vote on our offer or come to the negotiating table with a genuine willingness to compromise and help find solutions to the challenges our industry is facing.”
Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We’re sorry that a decision was taken by the RMT leadership to impose further strike action which will bring widespread disruption for passengers and businesses, especially affecting families planning to attend the bonfire night celebrations.
“It is particularly disheartening that next weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of rugby fans who are planning to travel to Cardiff for Wales v New Zealand as well as the other sports fixtures happening across the country.
“These damaging and unnecessary strikes not only disrupt passengers’ plans and undermine struggling businesses, but also harm the industry’s recovery with the June strikes costing the hospitality sector around half a billion pounds.
“Further strikes mean that more of our people lose pay and there is less money to fund a pay rise. We urge the unions to recognise that the railway industry is facing very real financial challenge, and work with us towards a fair deal that offers a pay rise and includes the long-overdue changes to the industry so that our services are more reliable, more affordable and inspire more passengers back on board.
“While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption, if you are going to travel on the routes affected, please plan ahead and check the latest travel advice. Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strikes can use their ticket for travel the day before the date on the ticket or up to and including Friday, 11 November. Passengers can also change their tickets to travel on an alternate date or get a refund if their train is cancelled or rescheduled.”
Passengers with a season ticket or who have an activated days’ worth of travel on a flexi season ticket who choose not to travel on 5, 7 or 9 November, can claim compensation for these days through the delay repay scheme. Weekly season ticket holders can also claim through Delay Repay if their train is delayed or cancelled on the day, or a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning is in place.
People who need to travel on strike days and already have a ticket should check with their train operator before they travel for advice on the flexibility of their ticket.
Passengers can also check on National Rail Enquiries or their rail operator’s website to see if their operator is affected by this industrial action.