Rail workers will go on a three-day strike over wages and jobs later this month.
The strike is expected to cause widespread disruption to passenger and freight traffic in England, Scotland and Wales.
When is the strike?
The strikes will take place on: 21, 23 and 25 June.
The move will “shut down” the country’s rail network, according to the union involved – the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
RMT members include everyone from drivers, security guards and catering staff to signalmen and track maintenance workers.
Which lines are affected?
People working for 13 train operators, which operate services in different parts of the country, will take part in the strike. These are:
- Chiltern Railways
- Cross-country trains
- Greater Anglia
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- northern trains
- South Eastern Railway
- Southwestern Railway
- TransPennine Express
- Avanti west coast
- West Midlands trains.
In addition, employees of Network Rail, which maintains railways across Britain, also voted for a strike.
The impact of the action would thus be felt across England, Scotland and Wales.
What about other rail carriers?
Employees of two companies that took part in the RMT vote did not vote for strike.
GTR, which operates the Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express, voted for action rather than a strike – refusing to work overtime, for example. And Island Line on the Isle of Wight voted against any action.
But even operators whose workers are not in favor of a strike expect services to be affected.
For example, Transport for Wales – which is not in dispute with unions – has warned of disruption because its trains use Network Rail’s railways.
In Scotland, the RMT has announced a strike vote over ScotRail’s wage offer, although it is not yet known when action will be taken.
Workers on the London Underground are also planning a strike in a separate dispute on June 21.
What could be the impact?
The planned strike concerns the management of the track, signals and tunnels (Network Rail) and the running of the trains (the train operators).
It affects both passenger and freight rail transport, including fuel and some food.
The government said it would prioritize the supply of food, goods and energy in the event of large-scale strikes.
Trains may only run for part of the day, for example from 07:00 to 19:00 and only on main lines. Services could also be reduced to about one-fifth of normal weekday schedules.
Contingency plans are underway to keep some services running, but timetables are expected to be scaled back.
Can I get my money back?
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, told BBC News: “If we are unable to provide service to customers due to strike action, we will refund customers.”
But he added that members had not yet decided on the details of questions such as whether customers concerned about the disruption can cancel their trips in advance and get their money back even if the strikes ultimately do not go ahead.
National Rail’s website suggests that options may be available, such as switching carriers or traveling a few days earlier or later than planned. But it says that customers will not be reimbursed for things like hotel stays that can no longer be used due to the outage.
Season ticket holders can request a refund for the part of their ticket to which the promotion relates.
Do I have to go to work?
Working from home has become increasingly common due to the pandemic. The Chartered Management Institute said it expected bosses to give staff flexibility to avoid the disruption where possible.
It said: “As for the direct impact on commuters, there is no doubt that it will be less than the train strikes of two or three years ago.”
But not everyone gets that option. A “great gap” has arisen between those who can be flexible in such situations and those who have to come to work, it said.
Why is the strike taking place?
The dispute concerns wages, conditions and planned layoffs.
The RMT said members who work for train companies have been subject to “salary freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions”.
Network Rail plans to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs in a bid to save £2 billion over the next two years.
The RMT said the lanes are critical to safety and cutting them increases the risk of accidents.
Network Rail said it would not consider changes that would make the railways less safe and that modernization is needed.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train companies, has urged the union to call off the strikes. It says “no one wins in the event of a strike”.
Can a strike be avoided?
The strike would be called off if all parties can come to an agreement – and they all say they want to continue negotiations.
Network Rail said it will do everything it can to avoid industrial action.
The RMT said it was open to “meaningful negotiations” but warned they would “need new proposals to avoid months of disruption to our railways”.