Hospitality chiefs today said the national rail strike will cost the sector £540million over the week amid a 20 per cent drop in sales, hit ‘fragile consumer confidence’ and could ‘deliver a fatal financial blow’ to some firms.
The warning came as the devastating impact of next week’s strikes on the London Underground and Overground emerged, with transport bosses saying customers are ‘strongly encouraged not to travel’ at certain times.
‘Severe disruption or no service’ is expected on all Tube lines from the start of next Tuesday until at least 8am on Wednesday due to action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Unite unions in a row over jobs and pay.
Transport for London added that buses and Docklands Light Railway services will be running during this period, but are likely to be ‘extremely busy with queues to board’ and some stations could be closed for ‘safety reasons’.
London Overground and Elizabeth line services will also be affected between next Tuesday and Sunday due to the wider national RMT strike by members at Network Rail and 13 UK rail operators on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
This will also impact all commuter services in and out of the capital run by the likes of c2c, Chiltern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, Greater Anglia, Great Northern, South Western and London Northwestern – as well as long-distance lines such as Great Western, LNER, Avanti West Coast, East Midlands, Grand Central and Hull Trains.
As hopes fade that the strike will be called off, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls told MailOnline: ‘For a devastated hospitality industry beginning its tentative post-pandemic recovery, the planned strike action couldn’t come at a worse time, and might deliver a fatal financial blow to those businesses already struggling to survive.’
And Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab condemned the strikes as ‘irresponsible’, casting the Tories as the only party standing up for commuters. He told LBC: ‘I think the strike action by the RMT union is deeply irresponsible. Of course we need to look again at the structure of our railways. We’ve provided a huge subsidy to see them through the pandemic and, as working and commuter habits change, of course we’ve got to look at that sensibly.
‘I want to stand up for commuters and rail passengers. I’m shocked that Labour have been so openly backing the RMT, and, frankly, the Liberal Democrats have been, as usual, lily-livered on the subject, and have not been clear. The only ones that are saying ‘This is wrong and we stand up for the public’ are the Conservatives.’
TfL said its teams from Santander Cycles will be ensuring hire bicycles are ‘distributed at key locations according to demand’ and told commuters that ‘walking or cycling may be quicker for some journeys’ during the action.
Bosses have proposed not recruiting into around 500 to 600 posts as they become vacant – including 250 currently unfilled Tube station posts, but insist stations will remain staffed at all times while trains are operating, with more than 4,500 station staff available across the network.
Meanwhile, it is feared Britain’s cities could be cut off from one another and NHS patients may put under increased risk if militant left-wing union barons push ahead with a once-in-a-generation set of strikes that will cripple more than half of the country’s railway network.
Major towns stretching from Dorset, Cheshire, Wales and Scotland will have no links at all while other parts of the UK will also be affected when half of all services shut down during the walkout of 40,000 RMT union members on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week.
Travel on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday will also be badly affected due to the knock-on impacts of the industrial action, while economists have warned their action could cost Britain’s stalling economy up to £150million.
Some of the 13 rail operators affected by the action – including Southeastern, TransPennine and Avanti West Coast – urged customers to travel only if necessary as rail chiefs prepared to publish the emergency timetable.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid blasted Labour leadership’s support for the debilitating strikes that could see nurses and doctors have to battle to get into work and patients’ routine appointments cancelled.
Louise Quick, who was forced into a £54 ticket change charge when she changed a scan at Great Ormond Street for her nine-month-old son Julian, said the rail strikes were blocking ‘vital service’ for desperate patients, the Telegraph reported.
GCSE and A-level pupils who have worked hard all year and are now expecting to sit their crucial end of year exams will also have to endure major disruption, it was warned.
As millions of Britons now face the prospect of having no choice but to work from home for all of next week, the RMT and Unite will also be striking on the Underground next Tuesday in a separate row over jobs and pay.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps slammed the ‘reckless, unnecessary strike’ as he vowed to fight back against the hardline left-wing union bosses who plan on crippling the country with modernising reforms of Network Rail.
Writing in The Sun, Mr Shapps insisted he would lead the battle against the RMT’s ‘dinosaurs’ who continue to push ‘out of date’ working practices that were no longer fit for purpose.
And economists are already predicting this wave of strikes to cost the UK economy at least £91million, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, proving devastating for the night-time and hospitality industries in particular.
It comes as an industry leader warned militant unions will ‘play into the hands’ of the work from home culture if they ploughed ahead with plans for the largest rail strikes in a generation.
Tim Shoveller, chief negotiator for Network Rail, said the walkouts could put commuters off the railways just as passenger numbers and revenues were starting to recover from the pandemic.
He said that the action would be ‘a reminder of working from home full time and the benefits some people will see from that’.