Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been writing about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel issue. – and what it means to you.

“Please only travel by train if necessary,” rail passengers were told again on Saturday. It was the third day of a strike by members of the RMT union over a dispute over wages, employment and working practices.

National Rail, the information service run by Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and Network Rail, said: “If you’re traveling, expect severe disruption.

The rail union must be absolutely delighted: although train operators are running a reliable, competent service on around half of the UK network, prospective passengers are being urged to stay at home or alternative driving, with dire warnings of serious disruption for anyone. adventurer on rails.

This month’s strikes are very different from last summer’s outage, in 1989, because that strike actually shut down the rail network.

For those who live in large swaths of Great Britain, including Cornwall, Dorset, nearly all of Wales and much of Scotland, there is no discernible difference. But on the lines with the most tourists, a perfectly good service was running from 7:30pm to 6:30pm.

At Birmingham New Street, trains to and from London Euston, Manchester, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

From London Paddington, GWR is running regular services to Reading, Swindon, Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth, with special departures on the “Glastonbury Express” to Castle Cary in Somerset, the closest rail station to the site festival. The trip takes just 98 minutes, with off-peak fares as low as £40.30 one way.

Mark Hopwood, CEO of GWR, believes in treating passengers like adults. At the busy Paddington station on the first day of the strike, he told me: “Where we are running trains, we are happy for people to come and travel, but we really don’t want to have them. trapped person.

“Just check your time for your journey – and your return journey.”

His partner at the state-run LNER, David Hornetweeted on Saturday morning about trains running the London line from Yorkshire, Newcastle and Edinburgh: “It was nice to see so many customers traveled this morning, heading to concerts and other events.

“Lots of customers come to see Ed Sheeran at Wembley and the Rolling Stones at Hyde Park tonight.”

Rival Lumo, the ‘open access’ operator between London King’s Cross, Newcastle and Edinburgh, even added an extra round trip on Saturday, with instant departure tickets costing £39.90 one way – and apply iron card discount as usual.

Top UK airports are connected to the cities they serve by regular trains until the end of service. All London Heathrow Airport terminals are connected from London Paddington.

Gatwick has regular connections to London Bridge and Victoria in the capital, as well as to and from Brighton.

On the Stansted Express, an hourly service that operates to and from London Liverpool Street, calling Bishop’s Stortford, Harlow Town and Tottenham Hale for the London Underground.

Luton Parkway Airport is served by four trains an hour from London St Pancras International, with buses to the airport taking an extra five minutes. Direct trains from the airport station also serve St Albans, Harpenden, Bedford, Wellingborough, Kettering and Corby.

To and from Manchester Airport, there are regular flights from Manchester, Liverpool and Preston, as well as from towns such as Wilmslow and Newton-le-Willows.

Other UK airports with good rail connections despite the strike include Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle, served by Tyne and Wear Metro.

However, the railway industry insists: “Travel only by rail if necessary”.

Shocking news: while my travel plans are my business, our passengers tend not to make unnecessary trips. Why on earth would the railroad industry want to perpetuate the myth that the country shuts down when a railroad strike occurs beyond me: all of which adds to the pervasive sense of unreliability.

If heaven forbid there are further strikes, I hope train operators will use the following for public messaging: “We recognize that tens of thousands of railway workers want and deserve Get a better deal. We hope we can reach an agreement soon. Meanwhile, we are running trains where they are most needed.

“If you can make your journey by rail, you really should – for safety, for the environment and for a more comfortable journey.”

Nothing.

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