Parts of Britain’s rail network – including London’s underground system – will be closed during next week’s Budget day strikes, bringing the country to a standstill and hitting hospitality hard.
Hospitality bosses have warned the impact of the strikes will hit pubs, bars and restaurants hard, with an estimated £2.5bn having already been lost in sales since industrial action started last year.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out at 14 train companies on March 16 and 18, as well as March 30 and April 1.
Rail workers have been striking for months as the cost of living crisis hits many Brits hard, with double-digit inflation outstripping wage growth.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, said it expects 40-50 per cent of services to run on those days but there will be “wide variations”, with some areas having no trains.
Affected operators will only run services from around 7.30am until 6.30pm, with many routes in and out of the capital likely to be hit hardest.
There will also be disruption to services during the nights before and mornings after each strike.
How will London be affected?
On Wednesday 15 March , tube drivers are set to walk out with TFL saying there will be “little or no service is expected” on that day.
It added that on Tuesday, services will run as normal, apart from the District line which will finish an hour or so earlier.
Transport for London also warned commuters that the Elizabeth line and London Overground will be much busier than normal and “queuing systems may be in place” to manage crowds.
While overground and Elizabeth Line services are operation on Wednesday, it added that the closure of Tube stations may mean “some services will be unable to stop at all stations or run to their normal destination”, causing more havoc.
Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Thameslink service through central London from the home counties, said Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern will be affected on 16th and 18th March, and expects widespread disruption.
Jenny Saunders, GTR’s customer services director said: “We’re really sorry for the inconvenience this RMT union action will once again cause our customers. With only a limited service running, starting later and finishing earlier than usual, I must advise customers to check for their specific journey details, as there’ll be lots of variations from station to station.
“I truly appreciate how hard this is going to be for our customers. These national strikes are terrible for everyone and are the last thing anyone wants as we try to regrow the railway after the pandemic.”
The Dockland Light Railway and trams will run as normal, as will London Buses; but all are expected to be extremely busy.
On Thursday, TFL said Tube services will be recovering from the strike on Wednesday, so there will likely be long delays.
They will also be impacted by the national rail strike on that day, which will also create lags on the Friday.
Can hospitality cope?
In January, hospitality leaders warned of the “damaging” impact of strikes to the sector, calling it “entirely avoidable” harm.
Pubs, bars and restaurants are estimated to £2.5bn from the strike action, as many city workers decide to stay at home instead of braving disrupted services, and going to the pub after work.
Hospitality bosses have struggled in the last 12 months due to the impact of the cost of living crisis. The soaring cost of energy, as well as some staples such as grain, barley and wheat in part due to the war in Ukraine, has pushed the average cost of a pint to £7.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “The strikes taking place next week will heap yet further disruption on hospitality, which has already suffered to the tune of £2.5 billion in lost sales as a result of this ongoing dispute.
“It’s essential that all sides continue negotiations as a matter of urgency and reach a resolution that avoids even more disruption that impacts workers, consumers and businesses.”
Pub bosses have appealed for help in the Spring Budget in Wednesday – a strike day – or they risk not “saying afloat”.
In January Tim Martin, the boss of JD Wetherspoon called on the government to give more help to pubs, calling out the “vast disparity” in treatment of pubs to other businesses when it comes to VAT.
Brits have stopped going out as much as soaring inflation forces them to be more savvy with their cash, meaning the industry is being hit hard from cost pressures in both supply and demand sides.
Are more strikes coming?
The RDG is frustrated that the RMT has refused to put its latest offer, aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, to a vote of its members.
The RMT called off a strike in a separate dispute at Network Rail planned for March 16 after receiving a new offer.
The union has been engaged in national rail strikes since June last year, frequently disrupting services.
Steve Montgomery, who chairs the RDG, said: “This latest round of strikes will be a further inconvenience to our customers, who have already experienced months of disruption, and cost our people even more money at a time they can least afford it.
“They will also be asking why the RMT leadership blocked the chance to resolve this dispute by refusing to give their members, many of whom would have benefited from a 13% increase, a say on their own deal.
“Unfortunately, while we will pull out all the stops to keep as many trains running as possible, there will be reduced services across many parts of the rail network on all four strike days, so our advice is to check before you travel.”
Includes reporting by Press Association – Neil Lancefield