Misery for train travellers as strikes begin

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Train users faced a headache yesterday when reduced services were in operation at stations in the county as train drivers walked out on strike.

Rail travellers in Corby were left without any services and had to travel by bus while journeys at Kettering and Wellingborough were reduced down to an hourly basis.

The industrial action was taken by the 460 ASLEF union members who work for East Midlands Trains. Members are worried that reducing pension contributions will reduce the value of their pensions.

A spokesman for ASLEF said: “We are ready to talk – that was the point of the action to get management around the table and talking about it. We are no closer to talks I am sorry to say.

“We are waiting for a call to go to a meeting because everybody is suffering at the moment but the management are being pig-headed.”

The train firm pledged to continue as many services as possible.

An East Midlands Trains spokesman said: “We have a strong track record of properly funding the pensions of our employees and we will continue to do so. When additional contributions were required in recent years, we paid our share and more. The fact is that a formal independent valuation has shown the scheme is in good health and the temporary additional employee and employer contributions of previous years are not now required. This is not just our view - the funding arrangements have been agreed with the independent scheme Trustees, and with the Department for Transport which supervises the terms of the franchise including pensions.

“ASLEF is ignoring the recommendations of independent experts, causing unnecessary disruption to passengers and using its members for purely ideological and political reasons. As well as losing money by striking, expecting our employees to pay more for their pensions than is needed, our employees have also been discouraged by the unions from taking up hundreds of pounds in other benefits available from salary sacrifice arrangements. Affordability of contributions and a high employee participation rate are key to the future health of the pension scheme. Trying to force our employees to pay higher contributions than is necessary and scare-mongering by the unions about the state of the scheme undermines confidence and risks employees dropping out. “

Rail user Robert Chapman, of Doncaster, was among those passengers having to make alternative arrangements.

He said: “I came to Corby to drop a car off for work and was going to go to Market Harborough to get another one. I’m gutted, I didn’t know about the strike. Train drivers get paid enough.”

A further strike is due tomorrow.