Norfolk MP James Wild: no King's Lynn trains taking the strain due to RMT strike
“Let the train take the strain” was a slogan coined 30 years ago to encourage more people to use our railways.
This week people across the country are enduring the biggest rail strike since 1989. Rather than taking the strain, the actions of trade unions are inflicting pain on the travelling public.
People trying to get work, medical appointments, take exams, go on a summer break, or just get on with their lives have been unable to, or faced major disruption.
King’s Lynn station has been silent on strike days with no trains arriving or departing. In Parliament, I met the managing director of Great Northern and although their employees did not go on strike, the knock-on effects of Network Rail meant our line to and from Ely could not be served.
Partly that is due to antiquated signalling systems that rely on people physically carrying it out, rather than using technology. Indeed, it has been revealing quite how outdated some working practices are in the sector that the unions oppose reforming. Sadly, the unions’ instinct to use strikes as the first resort are ultimately self-defeating as they push people away from the railways.
That’s why the trade unions and employers should work intensively to resolve this dispute in order to come to a sensible compromise.
There will be a pay rise as the pay freeze is coming to an end and it must also make sense to use technology, for example, to check the condition of lines rather than having people walking down a track.
By following the advice of a 1990s slogan that “it’s good to talk”, the unions could engage properly and help take the opportunity to modernise the network and encourage more people to use train to travel. That would benefit their members and the passengers they serve.
Before the strikes began, the week in Westminster started with the Armed Forces Day flag raising ceremony in Parliament. It was particularly moving as the focus was on the families of those who serve, and who have served.
In one reading Tyler, one of the young people present, said: “My father is a soldier, a hero I believe. Yet to serve among an army, means that sometimes they must leave.”
Other children shared their own experiences of saying goodbye as parents go on operations. The Voices of Armed Forces Children’s choir who got to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent rendition of “Welcome Home” was especially powerful.
With Scotty’s Little Soldiers in Lynn doing such important work in supporting bereaved children, as well as the Bridge for Heroes and the Royal British Legion helping veterans, this is a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by the whole Armed Forces family, not just those in uniform, to keep us safe.
• I am campaigning for QEH to be one of eight new hospital schemes the government has committed to – visit www.jameswild.org.uk/campaigns/new-queen-elizabeth-hospital