Network Rail workers to strike twice in June

Network Rail workers to strike twice in June

Network Rail workers are to stage two strikes next month after a new pay offer was rejected.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out for 24 hours from 5pm on June 4 and for 48 hours from the same time on June 9.

The workers, including signallers and maintenance staff, will also ban overtime from June 6-12.

A planned strike over the bank holiday was suspended after Network Rail tabled a fresh pay offer.

But a meeting of RMT reps rejected the improved deal, leading to fresh strikes being announced. WORDS: PA

The industrial action is expected to cause widespread disruption to rail travel, sparking travel chaos across the country.

NR had originally offered a four-year deal - £500 this year followed by three years of increases in line with RPI inflation.

The new offer was for two years - a 1% rise this year and around 1.4% next year, with no compulsory redundancies for the duration of the agreement.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Our representatives have today rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and, in the absence of any further movement from the company, that has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action.

"We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and the blunt truth is that this dispute could be settled for a fraction of the money being handed out in senior manager bonuses and to the train operators for not running services. That is a ludicrous situation which should never have been allowed to have arisen.

"With no shortage of cash in the bonus pot and to compensate the private train companies, it is no wonder that our members take the view that 1% is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running safely at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion.

"It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock, often in appalling conditions, and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.

"Our rail staff deserve a fair reward for the high-pressure, safety-critical work that they undertake day and night and the last thing that we need is a demoralised, burnt-out workforce living in fear for their livelihoods and their futures, and the message has come back loud and clear that that is exactly how they feel about the current offer from Network Rail.

"RMT remains available for talks and we hope that the company will appreciate the anger amongst staff at the current offer on pay and conditions from Network Rail and that they will agree to our call to come back to the table with an improved package.

"We expect rock-solid support for this action and will be taking a new campaign to the public under the banner 'Our Jobs - Your Safety' as we build support for the fight to stop this attack on a workforce whose core role is to deliver a safe railway to the British people."

The RMT said NR generated profits of £1 billion last year, and was paying out £60 million in bonuses.

Each day of any strike would lead to NR paying compensation of £30 million to train companies, claimed the union.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which also suspended a Bank Holiday strike, said it will ballot its members on the new pay offer.

TSSA official Lorraine Ward said: "With the expected cuts in the public sector from the new Tory Government, our members were as much concerned about job security as they were about pay.

"This offer means there will be no compulsory redundancies at NR for at least the next two years. Given the current climate, we think this is a major advance."

The result of the ballot will be announced on June 13.

RMT members voted by 80% for strikes and 92% for other forms of industrial action, in a 60% turnout - all well above new thresholds being planned for union ballots by the Government.

The Queen's Speech yesterday included a Bill which will require unions to achieve a turnout of at least 50% for a strike to be valid, while in transport, health, fire and education, 40% of those entitled to vote must back action.

Time limits will also be introduced on a mandate following a ballot for industrial action.

The Government said the aim of the Bill was to ensure that strikes are the result of "clear, positive and recent decisions" by union members as well as ensuring that disruption to essential public services had a democratic mandate.

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: "Our people know that there are ways to improve the way work is done. I have always said that if we work together to realise these benefits there is the possibility to increase pay.

"We are therefore ready to get around the table with whoever the RMT consider can speak on behalf of their members. It is clearly unacceptable for the RMT to massively disrupt the travelling public with strike action when we are ready to continue talks."

NR said it will now restart its contingency planning with the train operators, but warned that if the strike goes ahead, rail services will be "severely affected".

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Millions of hardworking people will be disrupted by this unnecessary and unreasonable strike action. I condemn it wholeheartedly and urge the union to reconsider.

"Over the past four years Network Rail staff have enjoyed pay rises eight times higher than other public sector workers. By any measure RMT members already get a fair deal.

"It is very disappointing that RMT has now rejected a deal delivered through Acas talks that the union's leadership agreed was a reasonable offer.

"The Government will do everything it can to help keep people and goods moving during the strike."

Mr Cash added: "RMT is absolutely clear that we are ready and available for talks at any time with Network Rail aimed at securing a solution to this dispute."

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail operators and Network Rail, said: "Should the RMT's industrial action go ahead, it will have a severe impact on millions of people's travel plans and daily lives, disrupt vital freight deliveries across the country and harm the economy.

"The rail industry will work together to put in place contingency plans to manage disruption and make sure that passengers are kept informed with the latest travel information."

10 scenic train trips in Europe
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Network Rail workers to strike twice in June

The line between Glasgow and Mallaig is one of Britain’s most eye-catching train journeys. During the course of the 164-mile route, the “Road to the Isles” hugs the banks of Loch Lomond on departure from Glasgow, before making its way past castles, mountains (including Ben Nevis) and waterfalls en route to Scotland’s west coast. Then, just as you approach the journey’s end, the track crosses the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter movies.

There’s no disputing the Cote d’Azur is one of Europe’s loveliest coastlines, with golden beaches and bright blue waters stretching for more than 100km. Skirt the shoreline from Fréjus in France to Ventimiglia in Italy and you can give this sandy playground a closer inspection, because there are ample opportunities to stop and soak up the atmosphere if you catch one of the daily regional TER trains, which call at Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Eze and other stops along the way.

Keep your eyes on the skies on the daily InterCity from Venice to Munich, which weaves through the mighty Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. Following one of Europe’s great trade routes, the train calls at some of Italy’s finest Renaissance towns, before continuing to Innsbruck via the Brenner Alpine pass. The section between Verona, Bolzano and Fortezza is particularly striking as the train traces the river Isarco north in the shadow of the Dolomites, briefly crossing into Austria before arriving into Munich in time for dinner.

The narrow-gauge railway from Nice to Digne les Bains, in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, is a relative unknown in the world of scenic trains. A 90-mile journey taking around three hours, it crosses rivers and passes through enchanting communities such as St Andre les Alpes and Entreveux. This is a private railway, so it often remains undiscovered unless you’re on a tour. However, it’s open for exploration by independent travellers, too, departing Nice CFP station four times per day. 

A train trip doesn’t need to be long to be beautiful. The stretch from Messina to Catania in Sicily takes just 90 minutes, but the views of the coast and Ionian Sea are something to remember. If you’re travelling overnight from Rome, you’ll wake at daybreak to find the train being loaded onto a ferry. And from the moment you’re on Sicilian shores until your arrival in Catania you’re spoiled for choice – look east to see the rocky Mediterranean coastline and bobbing fishing boats, and west for none other than the peak of Mount Etna, Europe's tallest active volcano.

The joy of train travel is the transition from one place to another, watching the landscape unfold before you as you cross borders by rail. Starting out in Zurich’s cosmopolitan centre, this train quickly ascends into the Swiss Alps, passing green lakes, quaint villages, and snowy peaks. Just a few hours later you’ll descend into Italy, to the shores of Lake Como, catching a glimpse of the cupola of the cathedral and the lakeside villas bounded by Cypress trees. The Zurich to Como route is done on an everyday InterCity train, with no panoramic windows or fancy title to its name, yet it’s still a stunner of a trip. 

The Golden Pass refers to the stretch of railway from Montreux to Lucerne in the Swiss Alps. Though feasible in a day, the route isn’t one to conquer in such a short time, and should be savoured. With countless opportunities to get off and explore, it’s easy to build your own itinerary on Switzerland’s famous scenic railways. The region is home to a host of scenic services, including glass-topped panoramic trains and funicular railways, so it’s little wonder that the Oberland attracts such wide praise from train travellers. Between Lucerne and Interlaken the landscape is exceptionally beautiful, passing the emerald-green waters of Lake Lungern and lakeside hamlets at the Brunig Pass.  

Travelling at around 20mph, this scenic train is the epitome of slow travel. But although the Bernina “Express” hardly deserves its title, as it winds through the southern Alps, over bridges, gorges and precarious mountain passes, you wouldn’t want it to go any faster. Crossing some 200 bridges and passing through mountains via 55 tunnels, this is a feat of engineering so impressive that it has earned Unesco World Heritage status. The panoramic train has been designed to offer a ringside seat and as the rails mount the Albula pass to St Moritz, you won’t be disappointed by the views. 

Fjords, glaciers and snow-capped peaks provide the spectacle on the Bergen Line, one of Scandinavia’s most impressive train journeys. Travelling from Oslo to Bergen in around seven hours, the trip’s highlights include Europe’s largest mountain plateau, Hardangervidda. But it’s not just the views that impress; the railway itself is extraordinary. More than 15,000 men laid this track into the peaks and dug 182 tunnels out of mountain rock, by hand. Construction started in 1875 – and took 34 years to complete. 
An unexpected beauty in Spain, the train between Madrid and Oviedo offers a glimpse of classic Spanish countryside on its way from the capital to the north coast. And as the train approaches the Asturias region, and its principal city Oviedo, it climbs into the clouds, passing through the Picos de Europa mountains. Upon arrival in Oviedo, the train remains the best way to continue your explorations of the area: take a Feve narrow-gauge railway to Galicia and the Basque Country.

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