Rail staff across East Anglia take to picket lines on first day of national strike action

Colchester picket line on Tuesday 21 June.
Credit: ITV News Anglia
Rail workers demonstrated at Colchester station on the first of three days of strike action. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Thousands of commuters have had to make alternative plans as rail staff walked out for the first of three days of strike action.

Train timetables across the East of England have been reduced to just a skeleton service on the busiest lines, after talks between the train operators and unions failed to avert industrial action.

Greater Anglia said that passengers seemed to have heeded their warnings and to only travel if absolutely necessary.

The company is only operating a limited service to London Liverpool Street from Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge, Stansted Airport and Southend Victoria.

Juliet Maxam of Greater Anglia said: "We are running a very skeleton service - none of our regional routes, none of our branch lines - just a very small service.

"We have seen fewer passengers than normal: some people going to exams, still some students [and] schoolchildren."

Workers on the picket line at Cambridge station on Tuesday. Credit: ITV News Anglia

At stations including Cambridge, Norwich and Colchester, striking staff were on the picket line to protest about pay and conditions.

The strikes have caused difficulties for many travellers, who have had to revise their plans.

Chris Hepworth from Bedford is a self-employed sound engineer who had work booked in London all week, and has had to find overnight childcare for his son as he will be staying in the capital.

He said: "I've had to find somewhere to stay for three nights this week. It's not at the same place, unfortunately - no-one can put me up three nights in a row - but I'll be hopping around.

"Back here [at home] I've had to arrange childcare overnight for my son [...] at three different friends, so it's a lot to juggle."

While striking workers were told not to speak to reporters, 23-year-old Owen Hooper join the protest as a supporter.

He said rail staff had worked throughout the Covid 19 pandemic, with some losing colleagues to the virus.

"During the pandemic, they kept the railways open and kept key workers being able to get to work," he added.

"Inflation is going through the roof and I think what the guys are going - standing up for their job security and fair pay for going out on the front line - I think asking the government to get round the table and negotiate with them for fair pay and conditions isn't much to ask."

Nationally, around 80% of services have been cancelled as 50,000 workers joined the strike action.

Further strikes are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday, with the travel disruption expected to be felt on non-strike days too, when only around 60% of normal services will run.

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