Shropshire Star

Shropshire businesses fear knock-on effect but some sympathy for rail strikers

Businesses have spoken about the knock-on effect and 'chaos' proposed strikes could have on them as Christmas approaches but there was also sympathy for workers.

Taxi drivers Derek Penlington and John Grenville

Rail passengers and businesses face disruption in the run-up to Christmas after the RMT union announced more strike dates.

Industrial action will be held across four 48-hour periods on December 13-14 and 16-17 as well as January 3-4 and 6-7.

Dell Penlington, of Dells Taxis, based at Shrewsbury Rail Station, has been taxi driving for 11 years, and said: "It does impact on us quite dramatically. We are on the station rank, so potentially it could mean no passengers.

"We might get some business from replacement services where a passenger has inadvertently got stuck but there's no guarantees of that. So the knock-on affect can be massive.

"It's hard enough being in the taxi industry and everything going on, with the squeeze on people's finances and disposable income but it's one of those things and you have to ride out these things."

Mr Penlington admitted to having sympathy for passengers and rail workers.

"People have still got to go to work and go about their daily lives," he said. "My daughter works in Wrexham, for example, but lives here.

"She doesn't drive so she has to either manically find someone to swap shifts or she has to find someway of getting to work, other than the train. She has to be there at her work for 7.30am, so it's a real struggle.

"But I do have sympathy for those who strike, whether it's rail services or the NHS.

"It's difficult and, certainly, I've seen people have had to go to use food banks because they can't afford things for their families because their pay isn't where it should be for the job they do."

Pubs and other hospitality firms across the country have said rail strikes before Christmas could have a “devastating” impact for struggling firms.

But Nick Hodgkiss, owner of Cromwell's Tap House in Shrewsbury, says he hoped businesses in the town would avoid major impact.

He said: "I'm not sure how much it will impact hospitality in Shrewsbury because a lot of my custom is local.

"In the bigger towns and cities, hospitality might be affected a lot more. I'm thinking the likes of Birmingham, with its Christmas market, could be more affected but hopefully it won't impact as much on us."

Director Russ Cockburn

Russ Cockburn, Director of Cucumber PR in Albrighton, said he is again having to rearrange his diary after the latest rail strike announcement.

"I'm all for people being paid fairly, but the longer these strikes go on the more impact it will have on small businesses doing their best to survive in the current economic climate," he said.

"Retailers and leisure venues in particular will be badly hit as the dates of these strikes are designed to cause maximum disruption and economic woes and I've already looked to shift some of my face-to-face meetings to zoom, as I can't get the train into Birmingham and Shrewsbury for meetings and Christmas functions.

"I've also got a number of Shropshire clients, who are still looking to recruit. Being able to attract workers outside of Birmingham and Wolverhampton relies on good, reliable train connections and these just aren't happening at present.

"The strike days are bad enough, but the chaos often moves into the following dates as well. The sooner a deal is reached the better."

Ruth Ross, deputy chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, added: "Strikes are a lose-lose for everyone involved, and this latest action will disrupt businesses, and the movement of people and goods, at the most critical time of year for many Shropshire companies.

"The effect is often felt most acutely by small businesses, which are the lifeblood of our economy.

"They rely on footfall from commuters and leisure visitors, and our bustling town centres, to stay solvent.

"With the rising cost of living and doing business, they view these strikes as another painful nail in the coffin.

"This cannot be allowed to keep dragging on. The RMT, Network Rail and the Government need to re-engage constructively, for the sake of the innocent victims of this strike action, and our faltering economy.

"It’s a challenging time for everyone, but the solution will surely come from co-operation, not confrontation.

"The consequences of ongoing strikes will have a major impact on everyone; businesses will struggle, people will lose out and the economy will suffer."

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