Traders' concern as rail strikes due to hit vital pre-Christmas shopping weekend

A 48-hour rail strike which hits one of the key shopping weekends in the run-up to Christmas could have a big impact on trade, business leaders fear.

Shrewsbury train station is a key transport hub at this busy time of year
Shrewsbury train station is a key transport hub at this busy time of year

The RMT union has announced strikes on December 13-14, and again on December 16-17, with more to come on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

As well as the impact on Christmas travellers, including students going home for the festivities, Shropshire businesses fear the potential impact on the bottom line at a critical time of the year.

Shrewsbury born and bred Stuart Jones, of Asterley Events, is running a two-day Shrewsbury Christmas Farmers Market in The Square on Friday, December 16 and Saturday, December 17.

"I think it is more frustration than anything else," said Mr Jones.

"We have a lot of people coming in from mid Wales and even farther afield, from Aberystwyth and other points across mid and north Wales who would normally come in by train. It is going to put them at a disadvantage and they are going to have to make different arrangements to get here.

"We try to promote public transport as much as possible but it looks like more vehicles will have to be on the road."

Mr Jones says he hopes even as the strike day approach that both sides would sit down and reach a "sensible compromise."

"We have the postal workers, the NHS, doctors and more taking industrial action at the moment over the cost of living. I hope that both sides can reach a sensible compromise so that we can get back to normal," he said.

Apple juice producer Tish Dockerty is one of Stuart's regular stallholders and a key part of the markets in Ludlow.

"There are lots of market stallholders who will be affected by this. Those dates are not idea for anyone and it is a bit annoying that the strikes are on that weekend.

"We would expect to have lots of customers out looking for presents during the last full weekend before Christmas."

Tish, of Ludlow Chamber of Trade and Commerce, called on both sides to settle the dispute.

"Lots of people will be wanting to visit family and doing their Christmas shopping. It is an important shopping weekend."

As well as the series of 48 hour strikes in December and January more than 40,000 members will also operate an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2.

It means the RMT will be taking industrial action for four weeks.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: "This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.

"In the meantime, our message to the public is we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the government and railway employers during this latest phase of action.

"We call upon all trades unionists in Britain to take a stand and fight for better pay and conditions in their respective industries. And we will seek to coordinate strike action and demonstrations where we can.

"Working people across our class need a pay rise and we are determined to win that for our members in RMT."

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