New Year's Eve strikes, maintenance and covid to cause rail chaos

30 December 2021, 15:40

London Victoria is one of the busiest stations in the UK, but is set to see disruption to services lasting until January 10.
London Victoria is one of the busiest stations in the UK, but is set to see disruption to services lasting until January 10. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

There could be widespread disruption on railways over the New Year and into January as a leading union confirmed strikes will go ahead on New Year's Eve.

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Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union intend to strike on New Year's Eve, meaning CrossCountry trains will only run on "a very limited timetable".

The walkout is over a dispute between train managers and senior conductors about the role of train guards.

CrossCountry will not run trains between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Glasgow Central and Edinburgh, Derby and Nottingham, Peterborough and Stansted, Cheltenham Spa and Cardiff Central, Newton Abbot and Paignton, and Plymouth and Penzance.

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Meanwhile a "heavily reduced service" will operate between Edinburgh and Plymouth, Manchester Piccadilly and Bournemouth, and Birmingham New Street and Peterborough.

Separately, employees of Gate Gourmet catering company, who are also members of the RMT union, will be striking at Edinburgh Waverley on New Year's Eve over bullying allegations.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "The disruption to services from the New Year's Eve strike action is wholly down to these greedy private companies on our railways seeking to squeeze out every penny they can by hammering down on safety, jobs and workplace dignity.

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"Our members at CrossCountry and Gate Gourmet are standing up for all rail workers as we expect a torrent of attacks on jobs, pay, safety, pensions and working conditions in 2022.

"We are ready for a new year of campaigning and action on all fronts."

CrossCountry advises customers to check their train is running before setting out on their journey.

In a statement, the union accused CrossCountry of "watering down the safety critical role of the guard by using other staff ad-hoc to act up into the grade in a drive to cut costs".

As well as strike disruption, many train operators are reporting timetable disruptions due to the number of staff off with coronavirus or self-isolating.

Read more: Chaos for rail passengers as trains hit with triple blow of Omicron, planned closures and strikes

Southern trains has announced no services will run to London Victoria until January 10 due to "coronavirus isolation and sickness".

This is a renewed blow to Southern's services - due to signalling work at London Victoria, most of its trains had already had to be diverted to and from London Bridge.

It will also affect services to Battersea Park, Clapham Junction and Wandsworth Common.

TransPennine Express, ScotRail, Avanti West Coast, Northern Rail, LNER and Greater Anglia are among other train operators that are affected by staff sickness.

Read more: PM says 'be sensible' for NYE, as people 'plan to travel to England to escape Covid rules'

A spokesman for industry body the Rail Delivery Group said: "Our staff are working in difficult circumstances and, like everyone else, they are susceptible to the virus.

"As they demonstrated last year in the height of the pandemic, our people are dedicated to keeping the country moving so that other key workers can get to where they need to be.

"We may not be able to run every train we had planned and there might be changes to some services.

"We would advise anyone travelling to check online before they set out on their journey or to sign up for automatic alerts from National Rail Alert Me."