Wales’ train services hit by the start of month of 48-hour strikes
Wales’ train services will be disrupted by the start of almost a month of planned 48-hour strikes today.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are pressing ahead with two 48-hour strikes at Network Rail – and 14 train companies – from Tuesday and Friday.
Although Transport for Wales is not part of the dispute with the unions, no services on the Network Rail network will run during the strikes.
Trains are only running from 7.30am to 6.30pm on this week’s strike days, although many parts of the country will have no services, including most of Scotland and Wales.
There will be some limited services running between Cardiff and Newport and between Cardiff and towns in the valleys.
But with further walkouts planned, Network Rail has warned there will be significantly reduced services, with trains more crowded and likely to start later and finish earlier until January 8.
Asked if there is a glimmer of hope in the negotiations, Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines told BBC Breakfast: “It’s hard to see that today. I’ve learned, you know, through a long career, that sometimes the light is just around the corner.
“But where I stand today, I’d have to say that with the level of disruption the RMT are imposing, the way forward isn’t obvious.”
But Transport Secretary Mark Harper said “almost 40%” of RMT members at Network Rail voted in favour of an offer to resolve the dispute despite “a very clear instruction from their union leadership”.
He told GB News: “I think the tide is turning on people seeing that the offers we have made are reasonable, taking into account both the travelling public but also the interest of taxpayers.”
The RMT said 63.6% voted to reject Network Rail’s offer on an 83% turnout.
The train strikes seem to be part of a second winter of discontent with nurses, ambulance workers, tube staff, lecturers, postal staff, driving examiners and border officials all staging walkouts.
Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now seem set to begin their first day of strike action on Thursday, with a second date set for Tuesday.
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden warned the Government “cannot eliminate” the risks of a wave of strike action throughout the month after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday.
He said ministers will be “straining every sinew” to minimise the disruption, with paramedics, postal workers and border officials among those scheduled to walk out.
The Welsh Government said that they could not avoid more strikes by nurses without more money from the UK Government.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the difficult position of those who work in the NHS in Wales and the strength of feeling. However, without additional funding from the UK Government we are not able to make an increased pay offer without risking a reduction in services.
“Whilst we were unable to avert the forthcoming industrial action, all partners have agreed to keep talking and to continue to work together on key issues.”
RCN Wales director Helen Whyley however accused the government of being “reckless” with patient safety and of calling a meeting despite them having “no intention of coming to a resolution”.
Ms Whyley said: “Low pay is fanning the flames of a workforce crisis and the rising number of registered nurse vacancies is already putting patients at risk.
“The pressure means nurses are caught between their responsibilities to their patients, their families, and their own health.
“If the Welsh Government is serious about patient safety, they must act now. Nursing staff must be paid fairly for the safety critical work they do.”
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