Taxi drivers

Hull taxi drivers hit by train strike as demand drops to lockdown levels

Hull taxi drivers have been hit in the pocket by the closure of Paragon station due to the railway strike.

Industrial action today (Tuesday) meant no trains were entering or leaving Hull. Further strikes are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, with commuters warned of further disruption on Wednesday and Friday as train operators try to deal with the fallout from the strikes.

With no passing passengers disembarking from the trains and advising commuters not to travel, it meant that black taxi drivers at the taxi stand outside the station faced ‘terrible’ levels of demand ” today. One said it was like stepping back to the days of the Covid pandemic.

Read more: Train strike in Hull: how travel is affected in June, alternative routes and which stations are open

Eight taxis lined up outside Paragon station in Hull city center at around 9.30am this morning, but the drivers were spending more time talking about the strike than ferrying customers. When asked what the request was like, one emphatically replied, “Terrible.”

Charlie, a black taxi driver, said he took two jobs in three hours, after starting at 6.30am. Another of his colleagues had also only had two jobs in three hours.

The RMT union picket line outside Hull Paragon on Tuesday June 21. Industrial action is being taken by RMT members working for Network Rail and 13 rail companies, including Northern and TransPennine Express.

But despite having had only one pass in the past two and a half hours, a third driver expressed sympathy for the railway workers who had gone on strike, adding: “No one should work for nothing, everyone everyone should have a living wage. right to withdraw from work. »

Charlie disagreed. He said: “Strike for money is disgusting and it is a failure of the unions. But we are all entitled to our different opinions.”

The rail, sea and transport union (RMT) has called for a strike over wages and working conditions and the future of staffed counters. The action involves union members working for Network Rail and 13 rail operators. This is the biggest strike on the rail network since 1989.

Factors that sparked the strike include a current wage offer of 2%, raising the retirement age from 62 to 65 and proposals to reduce the starting wage for new workers in certain roles are conditions linked to the salary. But there is also opposition to extending working hours from 35 to 40 hours and considerable concern over plans for the potential closure of most counters.

The Rail Delivery Group’s latest offer tabled with RMT members included the proposal that “ticket offices at most stations [be] refocused and streamlined over a period of 3 to 18 months”, with people being invited to purchase tickets online, through apps or ticket machines. The RMT expressed concern about the impact this would have on elderly customers and those with limited internet access and asked for a guarantee of non-forced dismissal.

Speaking to Hull Live today, a spokesman for RMT Hull said he believed the proposal would result in the ticket office at Paragon Station being closed. He added: “The ticket office in Hull would be at risk. RMTs are not against modernizing working practices but we want to protect jobs.

Referring to a workers’ picket, set up outside the station, the spokesperson added: “It’s strong there and we have a lot of support from the public as well. We call on the government to allow the rail companies and Network Rail to negotiate freely Very few train drivers are in the RMT, we have cleaners earning £18,000 a year.

Trains are due to run on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from Hull Paragon, but train operators have advised people to stay away anyway due to expected disruption from strikes over the previous days. Brough station is also closed on strike days. Hull Trains operate a limited service from Doncaster to London King’s Cross on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Asked if he thought the strikes would lead to a breakthrough in the talks, the RMT Hull spokesperson said: “I hope so. We did not refuse the talks, we continued the talks. talks until the last minute.” Under the laws governing trade unions, there must be a minimum of two weeks’ notice before any new industrial action.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on the ‘union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the rail companies’ and agree to a package of reforms. The strike was causing “significant disruption and inconvenience throughout the country”, the prime minister said.

Mr Johnson explained why he thought the strikes were ‘so bad and so unnecessary’, pointing to the levels of support available to the industry during the pandemic and the ‘colossal’ investment in rail infrastructure.

“We believe in our railroads, we believe in our rail infrastructure as an essential part of leveling across the country,” he said. But he added that to make the promised investments “we need to reform the way the railways work”.

“It’s not fair that some ticket offices … sell about one ticket per hour,” he said. “We need to get these staff out behind glass, on the platforms, interacting with passengers.”

But in a sign that there could be more trouble to come following the dispute between the RMT, Network Rail and the rail companies, Mr Johnson said: ‘We need, I’m afraid, everything the world – and I say this to the country as a whole – we must be prepared to stay the course.

“To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we operate our railways are in the interest of the traveling public, they will help reduce costs for users across the country.”