Continuing train strikes could lead to a long-term reduction in the numbers of business people using the railways, it was claimed today.
With further industrial action planned for December and early January, business owners are warning that remote working is increasingly likely to replace real-time train journeys.
Walkouts by the RMT union on December 13-14, December 16-17, December 24 (after 6pm) – December 27 (until 7am), January 3-4 and January 6-7 will affect Network Rail and 14 train companies.
Passengers across the region have faced reduced timetables, crowded services, last-minute cancellations and delays.
“Post-pandemic, businesses have been using video conferencing more and more to avoid the time and cost of travel,” said Mike Herbert, chair of the Transport Forum at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce.
“One of the impacts of the train strikes could be to encourage businesses to increase their use of video conferencing still further and therefore to reduce ongoing demand for train services.
“Ultimately, that could be to the long-term detriment of the train service although it would improve sustainability.”
The RMT is in dispute with the Government and rail companies about pay, job cuts and changes to working practices.
Rail industry employers say reforms need to be agreed, to afford pay increases and modernise the railway.
Meanwhile, train cancellations are at their highest level since records began in 2015.
Newly released data from the Office of Road and Rail shows 3.8 per cent of services in Great Britain were disrupted in the year up to October 15 – or one in every 26.
The figures – which exclude trains taken out of service because of strike action – show that 187,000 trains were fully cancelled and 127,000 partly cancelled, the equivalent of 860 a day.