Stations close as rail strikes begin

Stations close as rail strikes begin

Striking rail workers picketed the station during the first day of industrial action by union RMT, as Southeastern, which provides trains to London from Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge stations, asked commuters to avoid the railways completely.

None of the town’s stations were open yesterday, and no bus replacement services were put on.

The strikes are set to continue tomorrow (Thursday, June 23) with a further day of industrial action planned for Saturday (June 25).

The disputes have flared over pay, jobs and conditions.

Southeastern have said only 20 per cent of the UK’s trains will be running.

The train operator has also told commuters to prepare for ‘significant’ morning disruption today (Wednesday) and on the days immediately after the other industrial action dates.

The rail strike has not just affected trains. Taxi drivers in Tunbridge Wells who rely on commuters arriving and leaving the station found that they had little custom at the rank yesterday, and congestion levels on roads such as the A26 increased as commuters had to find alternative ways in to work.

The strike also came as bus company Arriva put up its fares at the weekend by a flat rate of 6 per cent, meaning a weekly adult bus pass now costs £22.50 in Tunbridge Wells.

Scott Brightwell, Southeastern’s Operations and Safety Director, said: “I’d like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience and frustration this industrial action will cause. We urge the RMT to call off the industrial action, and work with us to find a resolution as we look to rebuild the railway together.”

Robert Mansfield from the Tonbridge Line Commuters (TLC), which campaigns for a better service on the line that runs through Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells said this week’s industrial action by RMT workers was ‘badly timed’ especially as it was the last week of GCSEs.

He added: “TLC are concerned that some vulnerable children may now miss their exams and potentially risk their future.

“Due to a lack of alternatives, we are calling for special school services next week to safeguard these children’s right to education. There is also a risk that disruption will spill over to Wednesday and Friday morning, risking lots of exams. TLC are opposed to punishing children.”

He continued: “TLC has long felt that the rail industry has to change, but that should not be at the expense of a well-paid and right sized skilled workforce. We can see both sides of the argument and urge everyone to get round the table and be reasonable.”

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