Hospitality sector warns over hit of up to £350m from rail strikes

In 2023, 1,641 companies went into administration, with 190 of those from the hospitality sector. Credit: PA

Businesses have urged unions to consider the “far-reaching consequences” of rail strikes as the hospitality sector warned over a hit of up to £350 million from the latest walkouts.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warned it was “deeply concerned” about the “significant repercussions” that recent industrial action - organised by the train drivers’ union Aslef - will have on the night-time business economy.

The advocacy group representing night-time businesses said strikes over the past few years have already caused firms to lose more than £4 billion in revenue, which has worsened the effects of rising inflation and led to a “significant” increase in hospitality businesses falling into administration.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been urged by the NTIA to take “decisive action” to remedy the “critical situation”.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan (second right) on a picket line at Euston station in London. Credit: PA

Trade association UKHospitality estimates that the current train strikes will cost the sector up to another £350 million, which comes as swathes of firms in the industry are already being forced to close their doors.

In 2023, 1,641 companies went into administration, with 190 of those from the hospitality sector - marking a 22% increase compared to the previous year and a 91% rise compared to 2021.

Members of Aslef on some of the busiest commuter routes, including many into London, walked out on Tuesday, crippling services on operators such as Southern, SouthEastern, Gatwick Express and South Western Railway.

Train drivers from Northern Trains and TransPennine Express again went on strike on Wednesday, as part of a rolling action plan that will continue into next week.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has also announced two 48-hour strikes by London Overground workers over the next two months in a separate dispute over pay.

Michael Kill, chief executive officer of the NTIA, said: “Our industry is on the brink of collapse, with billions of lost revenue, increased taxes, and the devastating closure of numerous businesses.

“This has not only impacted livelihoods but has also led to a decline in the vibrancy of cities and towns nationwide.

“I urge the chancellor and the prime minister to acknowledge the critical situation unfolding before them and take decisive action.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive officer of UKHospitality, said: “Once again, hospitality businesses are left dismayed by strike action which will be significantly detrimental to sales and see bookings cancelled.

A spokesperson for Aslef said: 'Taking strike action is always a last resort.' Credit: Danny Lawson/PA

“January and February are already two of the quieter months of the year for venues and this disruption will make it even more painful.

“We continue to urge all parties involved to urgently reach an agreement and resolve the dispute.”

The NITA acknowledged that strikes are a lawful means for workers to express their concerns, but encouraged Aslef to consider the consequences of their actions.

“NTIA encourages the Aslef union to consider the far-reaching consequences of their actions and seek solutions that will safeguard both the welfare of their members and the viability of local businesses,” the NITA said.

A spokesperson for Aslef said: “Taking strike action is always a last resort.

“But this is a failure of management, a failure of the train companies, and a failure of this government, which has overseen a staggering hike in prices over those five years.

“The solution is simple - persuade the companies to come back to the table and negotiate with us.”

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