Train travellers face strike action misery

COMMUTERS faced fresh misery this week as more train services from Belper were cancelled due to the ongoing East Midlands Trains strike.

Replacement bus services were again in operation on Thursday, May 10, and yesterday, Tuesday, May 15, for passengers travelling from Belper to Derby or Matlock after members of the drivers’ union ASLEF walked out.

Talks aimed at resolving a row over pensions ended without agreement last week and a final day of action is now planned for May 17.

General secretary Mick Whelan said he was “very disappointed” that the company had come to the negotiations “without flexibility, without fresh ideas and without serious intent to end the dispute”.

He added: “Our door remains open. We are willing to meet the company at any time, anywhere.”

ASLEF argues that pension contributions should not be reduced during the uncertain economic climate.

Clare McCartney, human resources director for East Midlands Trains, said: “This is a strike over nothing. The average driver will lose around £1,200 in pay by following ASLEF’s misguided call for six days of strike action.

“We do not believe it is right to force drivers to pay £500 a year more in pension contributions than independent experts and the scheme’s trustees say is needed.”

The company said it ran an improved service this week compared with previous strike days.

The strikes came in the same week that Belper’s MP Pauline Latham endorsed a campaign for re-opening of a rail line which would improve journey times for passengers travelling from Belper to some railway stations in Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

The reopening of the Colne to Skipton rail line, she said, would reduce the time taken for people travelling from Nelson to Belper from five hours to three hours and the journey time from Derby to Colne would fall from four hours to two hours and 45 minutes.

Writing to the Skipton-East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership, who are speaheading the campaign, Tory Mrs Latham said: “I am very pleased to hear of the work that your campaign is undertaking in trying to secure that the missing rail line is reopened as part of the National Rail Network.

“As one of the MPs for the Derbyshire area, we have many businesses who are involved in the rail industry in one way or another, and therefore, I support your campaign and wish SELRAP the best of luck.”