Train strikes: Freight will be cut to 50% of normal levels but UK lights won’t go out

Source: iNews; BBC; Reuters; Bloomberg
Date: 21st June 2022

This week’s rail strikes could see freight reduced to 50 per cent of normal levels, the Transport Secretary has admitted but insisted the lights in Britain will not go out.

The Transport Secretary played down fears that the strikes could lead to UK food shortages and prevent fuel from reaching power stations, petrol pumps and airlines.

Asked if it’s a possibility that the strikes could cause the lights to go out, the Transport Secretary said: “No, I don’t think we will see that.

“Even while the strikes are ongoing we will see freight moving around at perhaps 50 per cent of the normal levels.”

A Network Rail spokesman said that on strike days, vital freight trains will run during the day and take priority over passenger services.

Network Operations Director at Network Rail, said: “We are working nonstop to keep nationally important freight flows – including supermarket supplies and fuel – moving during strike action.”

But a 50 per cent disruption is still significant, with freight trains carrying important goods such as supermarket deliveries.

Rail is increasingly being used by supermarkets to transport goods.

Tesco last year introduced a refrigerated rail service to help it deliver goods and reduce carbon emissions by taking 17,000 trucks off the road. In October it said it would increase its use of trains to distribute products by almost 40 per cent, crediting rail for helping keep shelves stocked during HGV driver shortages.

iNews reported earlier this month that there is a genuine risk the strikes could lead to empty supermarket shelves this week.

The strikes will also affect key freight deliveries, such as fuel for commercial airlines and biomass – used to generate energy – to power stations.

A Government source said Drax power station had 10 days of stockpiles which means the strikes are unlikely to adversely affect the power station, while fuel supplier Puma has enough storage to survive a 24-hour walkout and officials expect hauliers and other operators to make up the shortfall deliveries to mitigate the impact at the petrol pumps.

But fears remain that supply chains could still be severely disrupted as a result of freight lines being hit by the strikes.

Rail Freight Group Director-General said: “The pattern of proposed strike action is about as bad as it gets for rail freight, with disruption likely across the entire week and into the weekend.

“Even with the plans that are in place, supply chains will be impacted, and it is really damaging to customer confidence in rail, and to future growth.”

Labour leader is expected to comment on this in a speech at the Labour Local Government Association conference in Warwick on Sunday.

Businesses will struggle with freight. School exams will be hard to get to. Hospital appointments might be missed.

It comes as Britain faces its biggest rail strike in almost a century, which will bring the country to a standstill as thousands of workers protest over pay, jobs and pensions.

Strikes will take place across 13 trail operators on June 21, 23 and 25. National Rail has warned the walkout will cause six days of disruption because services will be affected on the days in between.

Fewer than one in five trains are likely to run and only between 7 am and 6.30 pm.

A tube strike has also been announced for 21 June, which will grind the Transport for London network to a halt and disrupt travel for millions of London commuters.

The strikes threaten widespread travel disruption during a number of major events, including concerts, Test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival.

Glastonbury starts on June 22, while that week will also see England play New Zealand in a Test match in Leeds, the British Athletics Championships in Manchester, and gigs in London’s Hyde Park 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 25 and it is Armed Forces Day on June 25.

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