Train strike warning for local commuters

By Connor Steel

FAREHAM AND PORTCHESTER commuters have been warned of potential disruption later this month as the National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT) announced a nationwide three day train strike over pay and conditions; a move that could “shut down the system” across the working week and affect travellers going to popular events that weekend.

It was announced on Tuesday afternoon that the strike, called the biggest since 1989, will take place from June 21; with over fifty thousand members expected to walk out across Network Rail, London Underground and thirteen train operators. A smaller figure of 40,000 workers, excluding London Underground staff, are expected to strike on June 23 (Thursday) and June 25 (Saturday).

And South Western Railway have been announced as one of the 13 train operators to strike, meaning potential disruption across the region. The operator of course covers both Fareham and Portchester train stations on a daily basis; connecting commuters to Portsmouth, Southampton, Brighton and both London stations (Victoria & Waterloo) to name but a few.

The strikes have been called by the RMT following ballots that ended last month; with pay, safety concerns, and compulsory redundancies set to be the three main issues behind the disputes. It also comes amidst government demands for cut-backs on a network that was offered millions of pounds to keep running through the pandemic with a huge burden for taxpayers.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said in a short statement following the announcement: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and, despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry, with the support of the government, has failed to take their concerns seriously.”

He continued: “We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1% and rising. Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.”

Despite the announcement there is hopes that such industrial action could be avoided and may be cancelled at extremely short notice, with Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines saying the organisation is “doing everything we can” to stop the planned disruption during an interview on Wednesday.

He said: “There are two weeks until the first strike is planned. We will use this time to keep talking to our unions and, through compromise and common sense on both sides, we hope to find a solution and avoid the damage that strike action would cause all involved.”

Government officials are drawing up contingency plans to mitigate the impacts of any strikes, but have stated that freight services would be prioritised over passenger trains to ensure the flow of goods. This could mean that fewer than 20% of normal services could run, or the network may be forced to open for only limited hours between 7am and 7pm for example across the three days.

Commuters are asked to make alternative arrangements if travelling to work or weekend events such as the Isle of Wight festival; whilst also checking with train operators regularly for updates on strike action. Employers, businesses and schools alongside other sectors are also asked to consider plans such as different working hours or allowing staff to work from home whenever possible.

For more information on the strike actions and how it can affect travel, readers can visit RMT and Network Rail websites; both providing updates as the story develops over the next fortnight.

PICTURED BY ALARMY: Train picks up passengers at London Waterloo, one of many routes that could be affected under plans for three days of strike action later this month.