Road charges should be waived during the upcoming rail and Tube strikes in order to ease the burden on drivers, the president of the AA has said.
Half of Britain’s rail lines will be closed during strikes on June 21, 23 and 25 by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), while Transport for London (TfL) “strongly encouraged” people not to travel on London Underground on June 21 because of a 24-hour walkout by the RMT and Unite.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, AA president Edmund King said parking charges, congestion and clean air zones, as well as unnecessary road works, should all be suspended across those dates in order to prevent some areas becoming “ghost towns”.
He told the paper: “If there are no trains whatsoever coming into Glasgow and Edinburgh, for instance, and people have to go about their business, there could be a case for suspending parking charges for the duration of the strike.
“Otherwise there is the danger of some areas becoming ghost towns.
“It will only be those people where getting to work is absolutely essential who will use the roads. More people will work from home and record fuel prices will put off some people anyway.
“Those factors will mitigate some of the extra congestion but there still will be shift workers, and low-paid NHS workers for whom going by car and cycling will be the only options.”
The disputes have flared over pay, jobs and conditions.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday warned those embarking on the three days of walkouts that they “risk striking yourselves out of a job”.
He also stated that the Government plans to introduce legislation to enable the use of agency workers on the railways during industrial action “if the strike drags on”.
He said: “These strikes are not only a bid to derail reforms that are critical to the network’s future, and designed to inflict damage at the worst possible time, they are also an incredible act of self-harm by the union leadership.”
He said the railway was “in a fight” as it was competing against remote working and other forms of public and private transport.
“We’re going to endanger the jobs of thousands of rail workers,” he claimed.
“The last thing the railway should be doing right now.
“It’s alienating its passengers and the freight customers with long and damaging strikes.”
Mr Shapps denied his comments on jobs were “a threat”, describing them as a “statement of the reality”.
He urged the unions to “join us on that journey” to reform the network.
In response, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The threats made by Grant Shapps today to railway workers’ livelihoods and their right to strike are disgraceful and will make RMT members even more fiercely determined to win this dispute.
“Instead of playing to the gallery for his own personal political ambitions, Mr Shapps needs to act like a pragmatic Transport Secretary who is willing to meet with the union and help us reach a negotiated settlement.”
As set out in my speech today at @SiemensUKNews’ fantastic Train-Care Facility in Hornsey, it's incredibly disappointing that unions have decided to strike next week, but it’s vital that we strive towards creating a reformed & modernised railway. pic.twitter.com/rgLaKzDGHg
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) June 16, 2022
Mr Shapps claimed the Government has a “range of options” to respond to industrial action.
Enabling the use of agency workers would be “very much quicker” than requiring minimum service levels, he explained.
“People will be able to come where they have the appropriate level of skills, training and experience, and that is subject to a more straightforward secondary legislation process,” he said.
“If the strike drags on … then transferrable skills, sometimes called agency working, will be something which will become available as well in this particular dispute.”
Mr Shapps said season ticket holders would be paid “full compensation on strike days” next week, and he had “moved to help make that an automatic process”.