Christmas travel chaos as train drivers to strike

A planned train strike could hit one of the busiest travel days of the festive period, with drivers walking out three days before Christmas.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), has announced drivers on the Virgin West Coast line will strike six times in December and January, with one walkout planned to take place on 22 December.

As Christmas falls on a Monday, a strike on the Friday before could scupper thousands of people’s plans to travel to family and friends for the holiday period.

Holidaymakers heading out of London will also be badly hit by closures due to planned engineering works at several stations.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the industrial action, which will take place on 15 and 22 of December, and then 5, 8, 26, and 29 January, are in a row over pay and working conditions.

General secretary Mick Cash, said: “Our members on Virgin West Coast are striking for workplace equality and workplace justice.

“The message needs to get through to Sir Richard Branson on his luxury island retreat in the sunshine that those who are financing his lifestyle through their hard graft have had enough and are prepared to fight for justice in their workplaces.”

The closure of London Paddington will also affect Christmas services

Image: The closure of London Paddington will also affect Christmas services

Phil Whittingham, managing director for Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “The RMT leadership is attempting to cause disruption when many will want to travel by train to spend time with loved ones.

“We have explored a generous 3.6% pay increase, however the trade union’s leadership is insisting on 4%, double the 2% average increase seen across the UK this year.

“We know how important it is for friends and families to get together over the festive season, so we will keep the majority of our trains running with fully-trained staff on board and at stations. We remain open to continuing talks with the RMT.”

As well as the strikes, stations across the country are to be hit by engineering works.

Great Western Railway will not be operating services in or out of London Paddington from Christmas Eve, and services will be limited on 23 December through to January 2.

Southeastern services will be dramatically reduced, with some not running at all for 10 days between 23 December and 1 January.

South Western Railway services are running reduced timetables from Christmas Eve. Services between Preston and Lancaster will not run between 24 and 27 December.

In Manchester, upgrades by Arriva Trains Wales will affect some lines on 24 December and 30 December through to 1 January. The network is also unable to run some services between Wolverhampton and Birmingham in between Christmas and New Year.