Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Rail strikes: Travel chaos as Greater Anglia, Northern rail and SNCF train staff stage walk-out

Rail strikes: Travel chaos as Greater Anglia, Northern rail and SNCF train staff stage walk-out
09 May

From Northumberland to the south of France, rail passengers are experiencing another day of cancellations and delays due to strikes – with further disruption planned on the trains and planes at the weekend.

Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) employed by Northern and Greater Anglia have walked out for 24 hours on Wednesday in disputes about the role of guards.

Northern has issued an emergency timetable, which aims to keep trains running between 7am and 7pm on core lines from Nottingham to Newcastle and Crewe to Carlisle. 

“During these hours, we will operate around 65 per cent of the normal weekday timetable,” says the train company.

“As the overall number of trains running will be reduced, we expect trains and any replacement buses we operate to be extremely busy. Please allow extra time for journeys, plan carefully and consider whether travel is necessary.”

Greater Anglia services in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk are unaffected, with “contingency conductors” deployed across the network.

The train operator’s managing director, Jamie Burles, said: “We are very disappointed that the RMT is holding a further strike today.

“In recent weeks, we have had some constructive talks with RMT union officials and offered a proposal which we hoped would resolve this issue. Unfortunately, the RMT has rejected it.

“Our position remains the same: we highly value our conductors, we’re keeping them on our trains, but we want them to concentrate on customer service rather than opening and closing doors.”

The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said: ”We are drawing attention to the ludicrous situation that means we are able to reach agreements in Wales and Scotland on the guard guarantee but not on a raft of key franchises in England. If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put rail safety first then it should be good enough for the rest of Britain.

“We have long detected the dead hand of the Government interfering to stop us reaching negotiated settlements in the current disputes and it’s about time Chris Grayling stopped playing politics with passenger safety and started taking the issue seriously.”

Eurostar has cancelled two round-trips from London St Pancras to Paris, and a single return journey to Brussels, because of the latest two-day strike by French Railways workers.

Staff at SNCF are staging 48 hours of industrial action every five days until the end of June in a dispute over modernisation plans.

In France, around half the trains have been cancelled, though inter-city services on non-TGV lines are worst hit. On the line connecting Paris with Amiens and Boulogne, only one service in five is running.

During the next walk-out, on Sunday 13 and Monday 14 May, Eurostar is cancelling a further nine trains between London and Paris. Passengers are being offered the choice of a full refund or accommodation on services which are running.

The latest Air France strike ended at midnight on Tuesday, but the airline is warning: “Last minute delays and cancellations can be expected on 9 May.” The bitter pay dispute involving pilots, cabin crew and ground staff is continuing after the departure of Jean-Marc Janaillac, the chairman and chief executive, but no further strike dates have been announced by the unions.

Further delays and cancellations are expected at the weekend when air-traffic controllers employed at the Marseille Area Control Centre walk out for 48 hours from 5.30am, local time, on Saturday morning.

The centre controls a large swathe of airspace from central France to the southern tip of Sardinia. While around half of the normal overflights will be permitted, delays and cancellations can be expected as aircraft route around the affected area.

Eurocontrol tweeted: “We are working closely with our French colleagues and other affected areas to minimise the impact.”

Passengers whose flights are disrupted are not entitled to cash compensation, but airlines must provide meals and, if necessary, accommodation, until the travellers are able to fly to their destination.


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