Portsmouth man forced to spend £200 to get to heart operation during rail strike

  • Graham Benton says he was left with no choice but to take a taxi to the London hospital

A man from Portsmouth has been forced to pay almost £200 for a taxi to London so that he could attend his heart operation after being unable to travel into the capital because of the rail strikes.

Graham Benton from Portsmouth had a heart operation booked in central London on Tuesday (21 June). He was due to catch a train, but had to book a two hour taxi ride, setting off at 5:30am to ensure he would make his appointment.

Mr Benton is one of millions of people suffering disruption from today's rail strikes with 80% of trains cancelled and a spike in road congestion. Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Speaking from his hospital room, Graham said: "The procedure had actually been cancelled last week but then the hospital reinstated it, so there was already a bit of stress and uncertainty on whether it was going ahead.

"Then the inconvenience of getting up to London today - and I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to get home tomorrow. Hopefully the trains will be running in some form and I'll be able to get home.

"In the end I had to bite the bullet and just get the taxi as it was really important for me to get here.

"I have some bad family history, and this has been stressing me out so I'm really pleased it's going ahead but it has been added stress and inconvenience trying to get here."

RMT members form a picket line at Portsmouth Harbour station where Graham Benton was due to travel from.

Graham investigated whether he could get a coach to London for his surgery, but it would have meant he missed his appointment.

"By the time I would have factored in a hotel, it would have ended up even more expensive than a taxi, and I didn't want to be in a hotel room on my own last night."

Even if Graham had made it into the capital - London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walkout by workers.

Speaking about whether he agrees with the industrial action, Graham added, "I support the right to strike - I can see why they are striking. But I do feel like the five days of disruption from the start is huge though - as a first action.

"We've gone nuclear from the start. It would have made more sense to walk out for a day, and then if they don't get what they want, then to negotiate from there.

"And if it had been one day, it may well have still disrupted me, but five days is a lot harder to work around."