The rail industry is stuck in the past and long overdue for reform – it’s time to make crippling strikes ILLEGAL

WITH a liter of diesel reaching £2 and chaos in our airports, now should be the time to get people back on our rails and secure their future.

Instead, a railway union brought 50,000 employees to strike – and from June 21st largely shut down the railways for a week.

Queues are forming at London's Liverpool Street Station as the Tube strike hits on Monday


Queues are forming at London’s Liverpool Street Station as the Tube strike hits on MondayCredit: EPA

The unions have promised that if their demands are not met, this will be the start of a summer of rail strikes. Yesterday Unite announced plans for a strike on the London Underground on June 21 to coincide with the nationwide action.

It’s not just those who rely on the train to get to work, take exams, watch sporting events and concerts, or attend hospital appointments that will suffer.

Each of us depends on the goods and fuel that freight trains deliver. We will all bear the consequences.

Therefore the law should be amended to ensure that at all times, including during a strike, there is an obligation to provide at least a minimum level of service.

Look at the ramifications of this short-sighted industrial action. The timing isn’t just bad for the public. It could have a huge impact on the future of the industry itself.

Stuck in the past

Post-pandemic changes in the way we work and travel mean that railways can no longer fund themselves from ticket sales as they did before the Covid outbreak.

The railways need £16bn in taxpayers’ money to balance the books.

This equates to £600 for each UK family.

What is clear is that many commuters will continue to work from home. Only six percent commute five days a week.

With passenger numbers doubling over the past 20 years, we’ve lost 20 percent of that since the pandemic.

There are a number of options.

We can continue to ask the public to fund the day-to-day costs of running the railways. That could mean spending less on hospitals and schools.

We could increase ticket prices or reduce the timetable. Either option would discourage more people from getting back on the trains.

The final choice is to modernize the railroads, making them more efficient, more productive and even safer for passengers and workers alike.

A reform is long overdue. Labor practices are stuck in the past. For many of us, we’ve welcomed the move to Zoom and Teams so we can continue to engage and work face-to-face with colleagues.

For the rail unions, they would not allow it before a consultation.

Imagine your manager stopping to say hello when you’re on a formal break.

Whether in the office or on the construction site, this is a positive sign of teamwork. Ridiculously, the rule book in the rail industry dictates that the break has to start over.

As the pandemic has transformed the way we work, commuter receipts are a little over half of where they were in 2019.

The weekend is now the biggest growth market. But despite a seven-day shift, working on Sundays is still a voluntary option for railway employees.

When England played during the World Cup on a Sunday in 2018, Northern Rail alone had 170 cancellations because they could not recruit enough volunteer staff.

Sunday services are prone to disruption at a time when we are trying to expand the leisure market in rail travel to offset the decline in commuter traffic.

But not only travel behavior has changed.

Tickets have gone digital and today only 12 percent are sold at the counters – but we still have almost the same number of ticket counters as three decades ago.

Unions too often invoke safety to oppose proposed changes. However, many of the changes would improve safety for passengers and workers.

The Railway Safety Board has said lives are being lost by railway workers and women doing jobs that technological advances no longer require.

Why do we ask workers to walk along the rails looking for cracks when a sensor under a train can take 70,000 pictures every minute?

These reforms should help raise the money for wage increases for rail workers and eliminate the need for forced layoffs.

Promise of the Manifesto

This is a workforce that has performed well during the pandemic and is in need of a pay rise.

Pay increases over the past decade have lifted the average for rail workers to £44,000. That’s around 70 per cent above the national average of £26,000.



SALARY: The position, which he took up in May 2021, comes with a salary and benefits package worth £124,000. He took a voluntary pay cut to £84,174 at the 2021 AGM.

Lynch – a former electrician who left school at 16 and also worked in construction before joining the railways, first at Eurostar – is said to have earned £763,000 in salary and benefits since joining the RMT in 2015.

UPBRINGING: Grew up on council estate in Paddington, West London with four siblings and parents who moved to London as teenagers during the Blitz.

A HOUSE: He now lives in a £1million terraced house in Ealing, west London.

FAMILY: He has three adult children and is married to an NHS nurse.

POLITICS: He once said: “All I want from life is a little bit of socialism.”

But they should be able to share the proceeds of those reforms via a new collective agreement.

All who are proud of our railroad must come together and agree on a new path to secure their future and the jobs that depend on it.

That means unions, politicians and industry agree on reforms that free up funds to fund improvements for workers and passengers.

Now is not the time for strikes, which will make these issues even harder to resolve.

During the pandemic, government, industry and workers have made a concerted effort to ensure our trains keep running to take essential workers to hospitals and other workplaces.

In France, Spain and Italy, legislation requires between a third and a fifth of train services to keep running during a strike. This minimum service obligation was promised in the 2019 Conservative Manifesto.

If the strikes continue, we need these new laws to ensure our fragile railroad is not destroyed.

Expect chaos on Britain's roads as railway unions shut down the network


Expect chaos on Britain’s roads as railway unions shut down the networkCredit: Alamy


  • If your boss chats with you during a break, you can restart the entire break
  • Union would not allow zoom meetings in the pandemic without consultation
  • Sundays are optional. More than 170 trains were canceled during the 2018 World Cup The rail industry is stuck in the past and long overdue for reform – it’s time to make crippling strikes ILLEGAL


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