UK rail strikes: when are they and why are they happening?

Millions will be affected by biggest industrial action on Britain's railways since 1989

Britain's RMT union is taking its members out on strike across several dates in June. EPA
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Railway workers across Britain will walk out this month in what is expected to be the biggest strike in the industry for decades.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will stage a walkout across several dates, which will likely cause severe disruption to travel plans for millions of travellers.

Britain is already struggling with shortages in the workforce, which have led to flight cancellations and lengthy queues at airports that experts predict could last up to 18 months.

The announcement comes only days after a strike on the London Underground, which resulted in the UK capital coming to halt on Monday after the platinum jubilee weekend.

Here's what we know so far.

What is happening?

Members of the RMT at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25. The union said it will be the biggest strike on the railways since 1989.

Fewer than one in five trains are set to run and only between 7am and 7pm, probably only on main lines.

Rail bosses are drawing up contingency plans, with the strikes expected to cause disruption to services for six days, from the first walkout on Tuesday, June 21 to the day after the third strike.

The RMT has also announced another 24-hour strike on the London Underground on June 21 in a separate row.

Why are the strikes taking place?

The disputes are over pay, jobs and pensions, with the RMT complaining that rail staff who worked through the pandemic are facing job cuts, a pay freeze and poor employment conditions.

Talks between Network Rail and the union are expected to be held in the next few days in the hope that the strikes can be averted.

The union says it is "unacceptable" that workers at British railways will be hit by a pay freeze amid a cost-of-living crisis in which consumer inflation in Britain has risen to more than 9 per cent.

Which events will be affected?

The strikes take place as a number of major events are being held, including concerts, Test cricket and the Glastonbury festival.

Glastonbury starts on June 22, and in the same week England play New Zealand in Leeds, the British Athletics Championships take place in Manchester and London’s Hyde Park stages gigs by Sir Elton John (June 24) and The Rolling Stones (June 25).

There will also be a Commonwealth heads of government meeting in London on June 24 and June 25, the latter date also being Armed Forces Day.

How will holiday plans be hit?

The announcement of a national rail strike is the latest evidence that the UK faces a summer of travel misery.

Airline passengers have suffered widespread cancellations and long queues at airports for several months.

The aviation industry is desperately trying to recruit more staff but it is feared the chaos will continue during the peak summer holiday period in July and August.

Ferry companies are not suffering the same level of disruption as airlines, although passengers arriving at the Port of Dover before last week’s half-term school holiday were forced to queue for several hours.

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Updated: June 08, 2022, 3:18 PM