The biggest rail strike in UK history could shut down the country later this year

RMT union members will soon vote on whether 40,000 rail workers should go on strike over jobs and pay

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Paddington station, London
Photograph: Christian Mueller /

British commuters and rail travellers beware: we could soon see the biggest rail strike in modern UK history. Nearly 40,000 railway workers across the country could soon strike due to disputes over jobs and pay.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has said members will be asked to vote on strike action in the coming months. If they vote to strike, the action will affect national rail operator Network Rail but also 15 other regional lines, from CrossCountry and TransPennine Express to LNER and Southeastern. In other words, huge areas of the UK rail network could be brought to a standstill. 

So, why might rail workers go on strike? Well, the RMT union has laid out several reasons. They mainly want to prevent Network Rail from cutting at least 2,500 maintenance jobs, which is part of a plan to cut £2 billion in spending across the country. Railway workers have also recently faced pay freezes and changes to the terms and conditions of their contracts.

Network Rail, on the other hand, says it is trying to modernise its services and save money following huge losses during the pandemic.

The ballot for the strike opens for RMT members on April 26 and closes on May 24, so it’s expected that any action could take place from June onwards. Obviously, as the strike is yet to be balloted (and may not actually go ahead at all), its terms and duration haven’t been set.

In short, Britons could be in for a tough summer. So here’s to hoping Network Rail and the RMT resolve their disputes before it comes to that, eh?

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