How Leeds could be affected as the 'biggest rail strike' in modern British history looms

Rail bosses are drawing up contingency plans to keep freight services running if railway unions launch summer strike action.

By Alex Grant
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 4:30 pm

A strike ballot of 40,000 National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Workers members closes on Tuesday.

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The union has claimed a national rail strike would be the biggest 'in modern history' and bring the country 'to a standstill.'

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The union has claimed a national rail strike would be the biggest 'in modern history' and bring the country 'to a standstill.' Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

RMT have announced plans to ballot members in Scotland for strike action, following a 'derisory' 2.2 per cent pay offer by ScotRail.

It comes as passengers up and down the country continue to be impacted by ongoing TransPennine Express strikes.

Why is the ballot taking place?

The RMT union says it's over pay, conditions and planned job cuts.

Members working for train companies have been subject to "pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions".

TransPennine conductors have been striking for 15 straight weekends following a similar pay dispute.

Conductors reported being given a flat no to requests to close the pay gap between themselves and other TPE workers.

Emergency plans in place?

The RMT are balloting 15 different train companies including Cross Country Trains, LNER and TransPennine Express.

The potential involvement of Network Rail, who haven't taken part in strike action since 1994, has caused the greatest unease however.

If signallers walked out, that would affect both passenger services and the movement of goods by train.

Emergency plans being drawn up to combat this include prioritising freight trains over passengers to avoid potential food and fuel shortages.

Could strike action hit Leeds?

Speaking to the YEP, Network Rail confirmed that, while they couldn't rule out strike action hitting Leeds, action was being taken to avoid 'damaging industrial action'.

“We know how important a pay increase is for our people and we want to give a pay rise. As a public body, it is important that any pay increase is one the taxpayer and passengers can afford." said, Tim Shoveller, Network Rail regional managing director.

“We continue to talk with our trades unions to find solutions on pay, and will do everything we can to avoid damaging industrial action which would harm the industry’s recovery from the pandemic, cost millions of pounds and undermine our ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.”