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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Rachael Burford

Rail unions told to ‘end year of pain’ as strikes threaten major events and holidays

Rail unions were on Friday urged to end “a year of pain” as another wave of strikes caused chaos for commuters, businesses and sports fans.

RMT members employed by train operators across England walked out on Friday morning in a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions that has lasted for almost 12 months.

On Saturday, the Aslef union, which represents train drivers, will strike for the second time this week.

It will disrupt sports fans getting to major events including the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City at Wembley and the Epsom Derby, as well those attending Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour concert at Tottenham’s stadium.

The latest round of industrial action during half-term is expected to hit hospitality businesses especially hard and result in an estimated £130million loss.

Simon Thomas, executive chairman of the Hippodrome in Leicester Square which attracts upwards of 1.5 million visitors a year, told the Evening Standard: “Who would have thought we’d be marking a year of pain?

“It’s a shameful anniversary which has seen some businesses close and cost jobs and futures... It needs resolving, and quick.”

Adam Tyndall, programme director for transport at BusinessLDN, said the long-running dispute was a “damaging own goal” for the economy.

“These latest strikes will cause huge disruption to major events — including the FA Cup final — that attract visitors to London from across the country and overseas,” he said.

“The strikes will be demoralising for those businesses that have been hit hard over the past year, including in the hospitality and retail sectors.

“With no breakthrough in sight, Londoners urgently want all those involved to get around the negotiating table and reach an agreement.”

Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) added that the strikes were “a lose-lose situation for the UK and London’s economy”.

“With the Epsom Derby festival and the FA Cup final taking place this weekend, the latest rounds of strikes have clearly been deliberately arranged to cause maximum disruption to flagship events in the UK calendar. LCCI urges all parties involved to work co-operatively and productively to come up with a solution to stop this madness.”

Rail minister Huw Merriman has hit out at the strikers for “defying all logic to heap more misery on the travelling public”.

He accused the RMT and Aslef unions of a “co-ordinated attempt to disrupt people’s summer plans”. Speaking to The Standard, he said: “Fans will be spending this weekend cheering on their team at Wembley, roaring on a winner at Epsom or singing along to Beyoncé at Tottenham’s stadium.

“To them, another round of industrial action will only strike a depressing chord by making their journeys more difficult.”

He added: “It defies all logic to heap more misery on the travelling public at a time when we need to get more people back on our trains.”

The Rail Delivery Group said around half of the network was closed on Friday.

During Aslef’s strike tomorrow, around 40 per cent of trains will run but there will be wide regional variations with no trains between Manchester and the capital or to Epsom for racegoers.

RMT boss Mick Lynch said the strike action over the last year had been a success despite the lack of a pay deal.

Speaking from the picket line at Euston, he said: “We’ve pushed them back on all the stuff they wanted to do. They wanted to make thousands of our people redundant, they wanted to shut every booking office in Britain, restructure our engineering workers, cut the catering service.

“What we haven’t got is a pay deal. We haven’t got any guarantees on our members’ futures but we have stopped them doing the worst aspects of their proposals and their ideas.”

Euston passenger and London jeweller Adam Hole, 36, said he was “very frustrated” with the strikes.

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