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Rail strikes ‘will cost Covid-hit tourism and leisure industry £1bn’

Rail strikes ‘will cost Covid-hit tourism and leisure industry £1bn’
Next week’s planned strike action will be the ‘biggest dispute on the network since 1989’

Experts have warned the government that next week’s rail strikes could devastate Britain’s post-Covid recovery and cost key industries over a billion pounds.

The tourism and leisure industry has already been severely impacted after pandemic lockdowns and would take a “big hit”, said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UK Hospitality.

It comes after the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) confirmed industrial action would go ahead on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, although disruption is possible for the rest of the week.

According to the RMT, next week’s planned strike action will be “the biggest dispute on the network since 1989” and will involve 40,000 workers.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Nicholls said: “At the best, we think it’s going to take a hit to hospitality revenues of over half a billion pounds.

“But that presupposes that many people will travel on those shoulder days when the trains and the Tubes will still be disrupted – it could be more significant than that.

“And if you look across the whole tourism, and leisure and theatre industries as a whole, you are definitely looking at an economic hit of over a billion pounds.”

Strikes on Network Rail and 13 other train operators are expected on three days next week, while London Underground workers will walk out on Tuesday.

During the strikes, only 22 per cent of passenger train services will run, with most of them on key links to and from London.

Coach services have seen a spike in bookings as a result of the planned strike. Stagecoach, the country’s biggest bus and coach operator said that next week’s bookings for its Megabus service rose by 85 per cent.

Ms Nicholls said tourism and hospitality businesses had already been damaged by the cost of living crisis and urged the government, rail networks and the RMT to reach an agreement.

“Next week’s strikes are so devastating because… we were starting to get back on our feet, starting to rebuild those cash reserves,” she said.

“This is a big hit next week where we will lose the best part of a week’s income for many of those town centre, and particularly central London, businesses.

“We would urge all sides in this dispute to try and come together to resolve this issue so that we don’t put commuters, visitors, tourists at a disadvantage and we don’t damage our businesses.”

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “With the upcoming train strikes fast approaching, many people will be wondering what to do if they bought a ticket and have now had their train cancelled.

“If you can’t travel and you have an unused ticket, you should be able to cancel and get a fee-free refund.

“A full refund also applies if you have started your journey but are unable to complete it due to delay or cancellations, and so have returned to your departure point.”