Industry trade

Rail strikes cause travel problems for Glastonbury – and small events fear ‘disaster’ | industrial action

A national strike at Britain’s railways will have a catastrophic effect on the live music and events industry if it continues later this summer, trade bodies have warned.

More than 50,000 workers at Network Rail and 13 rail companies, represented by the RMT union, are set to walk out on June 21 amid a dispute over job cuts and wage freezes, and new strikes are scheduled for June 23 and 25.

Around 10,000 London Underground workers are also expected to strike on June 21 in a separate dispute over pensions and job losses. The strikes are expected to cause serious disruption and come at the height of festival season, with Glastonbury taking place in Somerset from June 22 for the first time since the pandemic.

GWR, the rail company serving Castle Cary, the nearest station to Glastonbury, said it hoped to maintain regular trains from London Paddington throughout the festival. But it said other parts of its network were likely to be “more affected” by the strike and customers “may need to consider alternative ways of getting to a station serving Castle Cary”.

National Express, which provides coaches from 70 locations, said it had seen a “significant increase” in travel bookings on the dates of the scheduled rail strikes and was “working hard to increase availability where possible”.

Other events, including a series of concerts with artists like Elton John in Hyde Park and the British Athletics Championships in Manchester, are also scheduled for that week.

Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association, which represents nightclubs, event venues and festival organisers, said the proposed industrial action could have a “catastrophic” impact on the industry, which he said was “very fragile” following the pandemic and in the midst of the cost of living crisis. “It just seems like around every corner there’s another barrier,” he said.

RMT members demonstrate outside St Pancras station during an underground strike in London on June 6, 2022. Photography: Vuk Valcic/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Jon Collins, chief executive of Live, an umbrella body for trade associations in the live music and entertainment sector, said the action could be devastating for event operators already struggling to recover from the pandemic, with small businesses likely to be the hardest hit.

“While our members understand the concerns of RMT, there is frustration that this is happening at a time when we are trying to rebuild the live music industry after nearly two years of closure,” he said. .

“It’s not just the Glastonburys of this world. It’s the smaller festivals and gigs, where people have paid £8 or £15 for a ticket, where customers may be thinking, ‘I’m going to have to skip it’. This means that the event may happen, but you may not realize the profit you were hoping for, which could be critical for the business in this year of all years.

Announcing the June 7 strike, the RMT said railway workers had been treated “appallingly” and that despite their “best efforts” in negotiations, “the rail industry, with the support of the government, has not taken their concerns seriously.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “Rail companies make at least £500million in profits a year, while Fat Cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic. This inequity fuels the anger of our members and their determination to obtain a fair settlement.

“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with railway bosses and ministers, but they will have to come up with new proposals to avoid months of disruption to our railways.”