'I think it's a joke': Eastbourne residents react to train strike

Eastbourne residents have been voicing their opinions on the train strike which began today (Tuesday, June 21).

While Southern Rail staff are not striking themselves, the national action by transport union RMT is severely affecting a number of journeys on Southern Rail, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern between Tuesday, June 21, and Sunday, June 26.

Eastbourne resident Claire Walker said, “I think it is ridiculous, I feel really sorry for the people that are paying full [prices] on rail fares and then having to take hours and hours to get to work.

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"They have to get up early, come home from work late. It’s ridiculous, I don’t understand.”

Eastbourne Railway Station amid the train strike

The resident, who said she uses the train network quite often, also said she thought the strike was unfair on commuters.

She added, “My brother, he has to pay full price on rail tickets and he travels from here all the way to London.

"It is really unfair, I think it is a joke and I think something should be done about it.

"The trains are filthy anyway, they are always late, they are never on time.”

Tom Nevill by Eastbourne Railway Station

Leader of Car Free Eastbourne Tom Nevill was at Eastbourne Railway Station to help guide commuters today.

He said, “I am guiding people in the right direction, just volunteering.

“I believe the train union needs to work closely with the local government and the Department for Transport to give an outcome for people’s pay, but it means that people do have to suffer and they shouldn’t. That’s why I’m here, to help people get in the right direction.”

The 18-year-old said he is ‘not particularly’ in favour of the strike.

Eastbourne Railway Station amid the train strike

He added, “I think it is important that there is an outcome, so Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will really push people to the limit - and the bus network also.

“I was going to go up to Oxford and go to my university open day, but it turns out that I won’t be able to do that now due to the high pressure and high demand on the single-line train facility that will be running unfortunately.”

Despite some residents being against the strike, Chris Shiner said he is ‘completely behind’ the workers.

The Eastbourne resident said, “I am entirely sympathetic to the railway workers.

Eastbourne Railway Station amid the train strike

"Good luck to the railway workers, and the teachers, and the nurses, and the doctors and the list just goes on.

“I am completely behind them because what’s happening in this country in so many different areas is truly frightening.

"I am completely sympathetic with the men and women involved.”

A spokesperson from Network Rail said thousands of specially trained and fully-qualified back-up staff will step-in during the planned RMT walk-outs to keep some services running - but as they are a fraction of the usual workforce, only a severely limited service will be available.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said, “Talks have not progressed as far as I had hoped and so we must prepare for a needless national rail strike and the damaging impact it will have.”

Eastbourne Railway Station amid the train strike

Mr Haines said Network Rail and its train operating colleagues had been gearing up to run the best service it possibly could despite the strike from RMT.

Chair of the Rail Delivery Group Steve Montgomery said, “We are very disappointed that the RMT leadership has decided to reject our offer and press ahead with disruptive industrial action.

"With passenger numbers still at around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels the industry remains committed to giving a fair deal on pay while taking no more than its fair share from taxpayers.

"This can only be achieved by making improvements – like offering better services on a Sunday – that reflect the changing needs of passengers so we can attract more back.

"This is what the country wants to see from a modern rail system, and we call on the RMT leadership to continue to talk to us so we can secure a thriving long-term future for the railway and its workforce.”

Network Rail said on the days following the strikes (June 22, 24 and 26) the whole network will reopen but passengers should expect potential disruptions.

Govia Thameslink Railway, which manages Southern Rail, said its RMT members did not vote for strike action – although services have been impacted due to some signallers and engineers from other groups not working.

Chief operating officer from Govia Thameslink Railway Angie Doll said, “We’re sorry to say that people should only travel by rail between 21 and 26 June if absolutely necessary due to strike action by RMT members at Network Rail and other train companies.

"Unfortunately, there will be very few train services and some routes will be closed altogether on strike days.

“Services will start much later than normal and finish early. All this may lead to very busy trains and possible delays. Passengers should plan ahead and think about travelling at another time.”

“Strikes are terrible for passengers, especially as the country is starting to recover from the pandemic and return to rail.

"We urge the RMT to work with Network Rail and train operators to find a swift solution.”

Transport union RMT has been contacted for a comment but has not responded.

Eastbourne Railway Station amid the train strike