Looming rail strikes worry students wanting to go home for Christmas

By Raphael Caron

With the end of the first university term looming at De Montfort University in Leicester, students are preparing to go back home to spend the holiday season with family and friends. While their destinations might be exciting, the journey this year looks likely to be quite the opposite, with train strikes complicating plans.

This month, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers announced that rail strikes are taking place on December 13, 14, 16, 17, 24 and 27. On their part, Eurostar will be striking on December 16, 18, 22 and 23.

Nica Padua is one of the international exchange students from the Netherlands who is about to end her term at De Montfort University.

Nica Padua seeks to buy bus tickets to avoid the train strikes. (Photo: Raphael Caron)

“A few weeks ago I already had it all planned out,” Nica said when discussing her return home. “But then last week, I received an email from UK National Rail that said there would be a strike next week on the day that I’m leaving, so I had to rebook my tickets.”

These strikes are taking place for many reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained most railway systems in the world, leaving them with more financial difficulties. This was not an exception in the United Kingdom, where bosses want to start cutting jobs in order to save money. 

In addition, workers are dissatisfied with their pay, which they believe isn’t adequate to the rising costs of living in the country.

But these rail strikes limit options for students wanting to get to their family homes or even to airports. Even though buses do provide another option, prices have soared in the past few days. 

Leicester train station (Photo: Raphael Caron)

In Padua’s case, purchasing a bus ticket is exactly what she did. However, she had to cancel those train tickets, but said she wasn’t refunded for them. 

Despite being disappointed that the strikes are affecting her journey back home, she understands why they are taking place.

“You do whatever you need, but I feel like when public transportation companies do decide to [go on] strike, it has a really huge impact on daily commuters,” she said.

Negotiations are continuing and many travellers hope a deal will come. The most recent deal to rail workers, which notably offered an eight per cent pay rise over two years, was rejected on Monday.

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