THERE will be no trains and no replacement bus service between Skegness and Boston during next week’s planned railway strikes, East Midlands Trains has revealed.
The news comes after the union ASLEF announced that it plans for its local members to go on strike on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout much of May.
East Midlands Trains has hit out at the union over what it feels is “unnecessary” action, and has spoken of its “determination to run a good train service” on the days affected.
But on its website today (Thursday) the company revealed that on the first two planned strike dates (May 1 and 3) replacement buses will only operate on the Nottingham to Skegness line as far as Boston.
Rail users who would normally travel to and from Skegness are instead being informed to catch the Stagecoach Interconnect 7 service between Boston and the coast.
The company’s decision not to operate any replacement service at all has been condemned by local figures, who are angry that such a major seaside resort could be without any ‘rail’ connection whatsoever for two days in the week prior to the May Bank Holiday weekend - when millions of holidaymakers will be flocking to the UK’s coast.
Lincolnshire County Council chairman, and Skegness Town Councillor, Neil Cooper, said: “I think that it’s important that if the railway is not functioning properly then Network Rail or East Midlands Trains should ensure that alternative provision is made.
“They may not have a legal obligation to provide one, but they do have a moral responsibility to ensure that alternatives are provided.”
Skegness & District Chamber of Commerce chair, Glennis Brown, added: “This will let a lot of people down and give Skegness a bad reputation for its transport links.
“We’ve got to put pressure on them because measures like this will only worry people about services to Skegness in June and later this summer.
“It will put people off travelling here and is something we can well do without in our local economy at this time.”
Skegness Mayor Steve Kirk added: “This news is really regrettable. We rely a lot on the Bank Holiday trade and, although the trains will be back to normal on the weekend itself, during the tourist season in Skegness every day is important.”
ASLEF members will strike on May 1, 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17 over plans to reduce pension contributions at East Midlands Trains from July.
The company claims that its proposals will have “no impact” on its staff’s pension benefits and could save train drivers around £500 a year.
But ASLEF has accused the firm’s statement of being misleading and that the plans will only “store” up financial trouble for the future.
David Horne, Managing Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “This is good news for our staff and will have no impact on their pension benefits.
“We cannot see how ASLEF’s demands, to continue with higher pension contributions when they are not required, are in the best interests of their members.
“We know that elsewhere in the rail industry, and in other sectors, employees are being asked to contribute more towards their pension schemes, but this is not the case at East Midlands Trains.
“It really is good news for our people that the joint contributions are reducing for all of our employees, and for drivers this will save them around £500 a year.
“What ASLEF is suggesting would mean employees paying hundreds of pounds a year more into the scheme than is needed for the benefits they receive.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan argued that such claims were “highly misleading”.
“To cut pension contributions in the current climate is highly irresponsible,” he said. “It is widely believed that fund’s assets have dramatically reduced since the last valuation.
“Also, the charitable-sounding statement that drivers would save money ignores the fact that the pension scheme is split 60/40 between the employer and the employee - so if our members are saving £500, the company is saving £750. In total that’s £1,250 a year less going into the fund per active member.
“This is simply storing up trouble for the next valuation and the future of the scheme. It is disingenuous to suggest our members are getting something for nothing.”