Transport User Voice – Rail strikes spread to northern England

28 March 2017

Industrial action by the RMT union has now spread from Southern to Northern and Merseyrail.

On Monday 13 March strikes meant both Northern and Merseyrail ran a significantly reduced timetable, with some lines having no service at all, and some finishing much earlier than usual. A second day of strike action is now expected on Saturday 8 April, the day of the Grand National at Aintree.

So how did passengers cope with the strike earlier in March? It seems many passengers heeded the advice of the industry and stayed at home. Trains that were running were often busy, but less crowded than on a normal day. There was little sign of unusual levels of congestion on the roads or buses either. This is good news for people that did have to travel, but if the dispute continues people may find it harder to keep changing their plans.

How do passengers feel about strike action and what do they need from the train company? This is something we have explored with Southern passengers through research with our Transport User Panel. This confirmed that the most important thing for passengers is clear and reliable information, both about what services will be running and alternative forms of transport available.

We’ve been working with Northern to try to ensure this information is clear and consider how it could be improved. We will be focussing on the information provided to passengers on future strike days. As the dispute continues this will be increasingly important as passengers may be less able to keep changing their plans.

We’ve also been discussing passenger refunds and compensation and have welcomed Northern’s offer to ticket holders, including those with season tickets, a refund or compensation if they chose not to travel. We’ve been emphasising the importance in maintaining passengers’ trust that those who did not travel know how to claim. However, this is relatively small consolation as these industrial relations problems look set to continue to cause real pain for passengers. The most important thing is discussions between parties to resolve the dispute and get passengers on the move again.

We will be monitoring how passengers are impacted during the strikes. In the meantime it is vital that all parties in this dispute get back around the table to resolve this matter without bringing the railway to a standstill.

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