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IEA - Militant union strike action “likely to inflict permanent damage on Britain’s railways.”

Professor Len Shackleton, labour market expert at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, commented on the Rail, Maritime, and Transport Union’s announcement of strike action over the Christmas period 

“Planned strikes over the Christmas period are likely to inflict permanent damage on Britain’s railways.

“With the decline in commuting and business travel, the future of the passenger network increasingly depends on leisure trips and family visits. If this Christmas – the first for three years when full family get-together have been feasible – turns out to be a nightmare for rail travellers, more and more will switch to cars, buses and planes in future.

“The unions need to recognise that the railway boom following privatisation, which boosted pay considerably, is now over. The end of the franchise system means that private operators are tied to a narrow management contract and cannot offer more money to buy off the strikers.

“With the gloomy economic outlook, the government cannot continue existing subsidies to the railways, let alone increase them. Union persistence in demanding inflationary pay increases with no change to archaic working practices is very short-sighted.

“Capitulation  by Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies to these demands would only be a Pyrrhic victory for militancy. It would inevitably lead to closures of parts of the network and large-scale redundancies.”

Notes to editors

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IEA spokespeople are available for comment and interview.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.

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