The UK is bracing for massive travel disruption later this month when thousands of train staff take industrial action in a row over pay, pensions, and job losses. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators will stage walkouts on June 21, 23 and 25.
And while RMT members working for Tyne and Wear Metro operator Nexus are not part of the strike, there will be a significant knock-on effect for passengers.
Metro services through Sunderland are set to be suspended for the three days of action, although the rest of the network is expected to be largely unaffected.
The problem arises because the Metro runs its trains on a section of Network Rail track between Pelaw and South Hylton. Without enough Network Rail staff to operate the signals on that part of the network, Nexus chiefs say they are unable to run any services – cutting off a busy route for commuters and shoppers on the three days in question.
Nexus has confirmed that no Metro services will run between Pelaw and South Hylton in either direction on June 21, 23, or 25.
A replacement bus will run between Heworth and South Hylton on Saturday, June 25, but bosses say they cannot do the same on the Tuesday or Thursday as it was “not possible to provide replacement buses at short notice”.
A Nexus spokesman said: “Customers travelling in this area on June 21 and June 23 will need to find alternative modes of travel. Please check our Journey Planner for bus options.”
There will also be an impact on the days after the strikes, with services not starting on that section of the Metro network until 7am on June 22, 24, and 26.
Trains on the other parts of the Metro system will be running as normal throughout the week.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said that 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 added: “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.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, pledged that the organisation was “doing everything we can to avoid strike action”.
Mr Haines said: “We know that the cost of living has increased and we want to give our people a pay rise, but the RMT must recognise we are a public body and any pay increase has to be affordable for taxpayers.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added that it was “incredibly disappointing the RMT have decided to take action that could drive passengers away from the rail network for good”.
Visit the Nexus website for more information about the impact of the strike on services and details of replacement buses.