Passengers in Gedling borough braced for ‘summer of chaos’ if national rail strike goes ahead

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union is now balloting its members, with the vote closing on Tuesday.

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Gedling borough’s railways could be brought to a standstill this summer if a rail union’s 40,000 members vote to take nationwide strike action next month.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union is now balloting its members, with the vote closing on Tuesday.

Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, is also consulting members on a strike and has vowed to co-ordinate with the RMT.

The RMT balloted members because it said that Network Rail is planning to cut at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2bn reduction in spending, while workers at train operators have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.

In late April, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have had to contend with pay freezes, the prospect of losing their jobs and repeated attacks on their terms and conditions.

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“Removing 2,500 safety-critical jobs from Network Rail will spell disaster for the public, make accidents more likely and will increase the possibility of trains flying off the tracks.”

But Wendy Morton, the rail minister, has insisted that rail workers have already received greater pay increases in the past decade than teachers, nurses, firefighters and ambulance crews.

The ballot covers RMT members on Network Rail and Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, Island Line, GTR (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, and West Midlands Trains.

The union are not revealing what form any national strike will take but it is believed that it could start with an overtime ban before moving to a national walkout that shuts down the network.

In an effort to prevent empty shelves and petrol pumps from running dry, contingency measures are now being prepared for freight trains to take priority over passenger services, with tracks becoming reserved for goods.

“Removing 2,500 safety-critical jobs from Network Rail will spell disaster for the public, make accidents more likely and will increase the possibility of trains flying off the tracks.”

The RMT has promised to trigger a “summer of discontent” with the biggest stoppage since the General Strike of 1926 – and it could come as early as next month with a mass walkout of 40,000 union members.

It will not be able to go on strike until after the jubilee long weekend because it must give two weeks’ notice.

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Rail companies are drawing up plans that include training managers to dispatch trains and Network Rail is working with operators on a skeleton timetable to keep vital services running.

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said that train operators wanted to offer their staff a pay rise and were “working hard to make that happen” but productivity must improve. The alternative of more taxpayer support or higher fares “simply isn’t fair”.

Many Gedling borough passengers said the pandemic had made them less reliant on the railways for commuting to work.

Mike Green uses Carlton Station to catch a train to work in Leicester and said he would use alternative transport or work from home if a strike went ahead.

“I used to rely on the train but the services haven’t really come back since the pandemic,” he said.

“I now ask my employer if I can work from home or drive in if a service is cut or cancelled.”

Melanie Wright uses Netherfield Station to get into Nottingham.

She said: “The trains haven’t been right since Covid so a strike wouldn’t make much difference. The buses seemed to have bounced back but the trains certainly haven’t. There are less services now than ever. Tony Cave’s column on your site said we are seeing the lowest number of trains here in Gedling for over a decade and I think that’s probably true.”

But Alan Hodge said the the strike was ‘unacceptable’.

The Carlton Station commuter said: “Why should they [unions] still be allowed to bring the country to a standstill in this day and age?

“I haven’t had a decent payrise for a while but I’m grateful to have a job – especially with energy costs rising and food prices going up.

“They need to give their heads a shake!”

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