Constituents will be aware of plans by RMT workers to strike this week, causing disruption to families across the country. I am completely against these strikes and have spoken with operators and Ministerial colleagues to look for ways forward. The whole Government is doing everything we can to bring things to a speedy conclusion and minimise disruption.
I also want to speak to why this is happening.
Unions say that these strikes are about salary and benefits. The reality is that the average UK train driver earns around £44,000 per year, with median earnings increasing by 39% over the last ten years - 16% more than the average. The Government has been clear it wants to increase pay for rail staff, but this needs to be done fairly and in step with the wider public sector – that’s a fair deal for railway staff, passengers and taxpayers.
Our railways are struggling to keep pace with the needs of passengers post-pandemic – and are too often hamstrung by antiquated and outdated work practices. During the pandemic alone the Government delivered £16 billion of emergency funding to keep the railways running – equivalent to £600 for every family in the UK or £160,000 for every rail worker. This level of subsidy is unsustainable, and shows why reform is needed now.
Instead of working with us to reform our railways to make them fit for the future – trade unions have instead jumped the gun and moved straight to strike action, shutting down our railways for this week. These strikes will hit millions of families in the pocket, costing them more to get to work. They will harm the economy, costing British businesses millions of pounds. And they will disrupt vital services, like operations on the NHS and GCSE exams.
Thameslink have now updated me on what disruption constituents in Hitchin & Harpenden can expect from the strike actions and I have included that information below.
- Great Northern and Thameslink would like to apologise for the disruption to your journeys caused by industrial action.
- Many routes and stations will be closed. We have tried to schedule as many services as possible with the railway staff available to operate the network and the service. The services that can operate will run limited hours from around 7.15am and will finish in the late afternoon.
- All services will be affected including Harpenden and Hitchin stations in Hitchin and Harpenden. These services will be reduced to four trains per hour in either direction during the strike action on Tuesday 21 June, Thursday 23 June and Saturday 25 June, and we anticipate disruption through the week until Monday 27 June.
- Planned industrial action will reduce the service on ‘non-strike’ days (Wednesday 22 June, Friday 24 June and Sunday 26 June) because signallers and control staff will not work overnight shifts that begin on the strike dates. As a result, the earliest our trains can start running is after 07:00.
- Regrettably, many customers will be unable to travel by rail. Our advice, with the limited passenger capacity available, is to travel only where necessary, and if customers do travel, to expect severe disruption and plan ahead.
- Given the national scale and unpredictable nature of strikes, we cannot provide rail replacement services.
- Journey planners such as www.nationalrail.co.uk show the services available this week. Information on Sunday 26 June will be available on Saturday. Customers who have pre-booked assisted travel will be contacted directly.
- Govia Thameslink websites include information on exchanging tickets and refunds. The latest information is available on our websites: www.thameslinkrailway.com www.greatnorthernrail.com