Rail strikes row breaks out in West of England among region’s political leaders

Metro mayor Dan Norris has been criticised for failing to condemn this week’s rail strikes. The Labour leader of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), which is the region’s strategic transport authority, has “refused to lay any blame at the feet of the unions”, say South Gloucestershire Council Conservatives.

Mr Norris has blamed the Tory Government’s “woeful lack of planning” and “serious dereliction of duty” that has led to train services axed and industrial relations at an “all-time low”. It comes ahead of a third day on Saturday (June 25) of a national rail strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators, including Great Western Railway, following walkouts and picket lines on Tuesday and Thursday over pay and redundancies.

Services from Bristol Temple Meads and stations across the country have been severely disrupted, with about one in five trains running. South Gloucestershire Council cabinet member for transport Cllr Steve Reade said Weca bore responsibility for working with transport providers to keep local public services moving and championing the needs of residents and commuters.

Read more: Rail strikes: Bristol reacts as staff form picket line around Temple Meads Station

He said: “Despite his constant rhetoric around tackling the climate emergency and the cost-of-living crisis, it is disappointing that the Weca mayor has refused to lay any blame at the feet of the unions who have allowed this strike to happen, heaping extra costs onto local people and forcing them into their cars. With such disruption facing everyday life at present, this inappropriately timed strike is holding the country to ransom over unreasonable and unaffordable demands that will simply force the costs back onto the taxpayer.

“I would call on the mayor to speak up for the people and businesses in our region, to oppose these strikes and negotiate to get services running again.” Mr Norris said: “This strike action could have been avoided.

“Conservative ministers need to step up and show some leadership. Their woeful lack of planning has seen rail services axed and industrial relations at an all-time low.

“It’s this kind of attitude that’s seen them lose two by-elections. And now we look set for a summer of discontent.

“We urgently need the Government, employers and the unions to get around the table and address the issues behind the dispute. Labour is on the side of a deal, but ministers haven’t spent a single second in talks trying to sort it out.

“This is a serious dereliction of duty. I want to see this strike end as soon as possible.

“It’s bad for workers, passengers and the economy.” Weca comprises Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset councils.

Read next:

Bristol passengers face travel misery on day two of rail strikes

Rail strikes: What Bristol trains are still running?

Train strikes: GWR maps show which rail lines and services are operating this week

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