Rail strike: End of the line for frustrated travellers as rail network through Preston hits the buffers on first day of strikes

The biggest rail strike for three decades all-but paralysed the train network in Lancashire today.

By Brian Ellis
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 3:45 pm

Thousands of commuters were left scrambling for buses - or to car share - as they battled to get to work during this morning's rush hour.

Many more decided to work from home as the bulk of the county's rail services were halted by the first of three one-day stoppages scheduled for this week.

Preston Station, the main rail hub for the county, was practically deserted as around 40 striking RMT union members formed a picket line with flags and placards outside.

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Some of the RMT pickets outside Preston Station.

Inside only a handful of services were still running on the West Coast Mainline to London and Glasgow, as well as occasional trains from Preston to Manchester Airport.

There were no local services to and from Blackpool and to East Lancashire through Blackburn and Burnley.

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One disconsolate traveller waiting at the station was facing a desperate 13-hour journey to reach his injured grandmother on the Scottish island of Bute.

Deserted: Preston Station at morning rush hour today.

"She lives alone and she’s broken her leg, so I’m going up to look after her. I'm having to use a mixture of trains, buses and a ferry to get to her," said chef Josh Denton who set out from Lymm in Cheshire at 6am and was stuck in Preston for two hours waiting for a connection to Scotland.

"I'm not sympathetic at all with the case of the strikers. They want to try working 68 hours a week for practically minimum wage like I do.

"I get that some are maybe facing losing their jobs. But we are all suffering from the rising cost of living and the rest of us don't just walk out on strike."

The RMT pickets who gathered on the corner of Fishergate and Butler Street this morning said the reception so far from the public had been "really good."

The Ivanov family trying to get to a passport appointment in London.

"I think the tide is turning with the public support - we are getting some great feedback from passers-by and plenty of drivers honking their car horns as they drive past," said a union spokesman.

"I think they realise that we all need a pay rise because of the way the cost of living is soaring and it has taken railway workers to start the ball rolling.

"It needed someone to bite the bullet and say 'enough is enough.' That's what we have done and I'm sure other industries will follow our lead.

“But it's not just about pay, it's about the cuts the Government are saying they need to make. They are cutting 2,500 maintenance jobs and that will lead to more accidents.

Eerily quiet at Preston Station during rush hour.

"None of us want this to be a prolonged dispute and we are just hoping the Government will see sense and come to the negotiating table with a sensible offer. At the moment ministers are just resorting to insults rather than sitting down and sorting this out."

Back on Platform 4 the Ivanov family were waiting patiently for their train to London Euston to get to an appointment at the Passport Office.

Bulgaria-born Ivo, his wife Mihaela and daughter Sani have lived in Preston for six years, but were having to make the trip to the capital to sort out travel paperwork.

"We decided to travel down today to make sure we get to our appointment tomorrow, but the strike has made it a bit risky," said Ivo,

"Our train has been changed and we were a bit worried it might not get here because of today's strike.

"This trip is important for us, we don't have choice, we have to go to London. We have been planning the trip for about two months and then this happens today.

Taxi drivers outside Preston Station say they have lost 60 per cent of their trade on the first day of the rail strike.

"Still, even though it's made it more difficult for us, I'm still supporting the rail workers. People deserve a pay rise because of what is happening with the cost of living.

"And it's not just here in the UK, it's back home in Bulgaria too. They like to strike over there, it happens every day."

Self-employed car delivery driver David Sheron was trying to get back to Manchester Airport to pick up his next vehicle for a trip to Leicester tomorrow. But at Preston he was facing a two-hour delay for his next train.

"With three days of strikes this week it is going to cost me about £500," he revealed. "I only get paid when I'm in a car, not when I'm travelling back to base on the train.

"Money is tight for everyone, we are all under pressure. So although I understand what the rail workers are saying, maybe this isn't the right time for them to go on strike."

The strike was also having a spin-off effect on cabbies outside Preston station who claimed they were losing more than 60 per cent of their income on the day.

Some had decided to stay at home rather than sit outside the station waiting hours for the odd fare.

"What's the point waiting in the queue at the station for one fare every couple of hours?" asked one. "It will probably be worse for us on Thursday because that is a busier day normally.

"We're not happy and neither were a handful of passengers who had to take a taxi to work in Blackpool or Blackburn instead of getting the train. That cost them far more."

A coffee shop manager on the station admitted: "I don't know why I'm here today. There's hardly anyone using the station.

"I had to set off from St Annes at 6am to get here by bus and now, when we would normally be busy, we've sold hardly anything. It's going to be tough if this goes on for another two days this week and then continues for the long-term."

Josh Denton battling to reach the island of Bute to look after his injured granny.
Inside Preston's strike-hit station.