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.

East Midlands Railway strikes threatens Leicester commuter’s safe travel as union requests still not fulfilled

By William Delahunty

East Midlands Railway will be hit by another proposed strike date on Saturday, November 26, when services will be unavailable and passengers will have to reach their destination through alternative means.

Stop and go: Leicester station is sometimes full of commuters – or empty on strike days

Many commuters are worried about the reliability of rail and are concerned over the extra strains a striking rail force brings into their lives.

Mat Saward, a Leicestershire commuter, following the previous rail strikes in October commented: “I won’t be planning my future around rail.”

Mr Saward relies on trains to commute for work but also relies on them to return from hiking trips. He understands that after a long hike up Mount Snowdon, it is unsafe to drive a car so instead normally finds comfort in returning to the Midlands through rail transport to avoid a long and strenuous drive. 

Without a reliable rail system, commuters are left without a proper alternative and those like Mr Saward may be left with a decision to opt for a potentially more dangerous choice, to drive a car while tired.

Serious disruption to rail transport has been a constant theme in recent months and without serious intervention to resolve the root cause, more disruption will surely continue.

A rail worker at the Leicester station who took part in the Unite rail strikes in early October said: “It’s not about the money – if it was I wouldn’t have striked, it’s a conditions issue.” 

Young couple Alex and Emelia also use the trains to meet up but they feel alternatives such as taxis are not plausible as rail offers safety and security when travelling later in the evenings.

Rail clearly sets the standard for safe and moderated transport and many commuters clearly feel that if rail cannot be relied upon, the alternatives available to complete their journey are not adequate to provide the safety and reliability that the rail network does.

Moving forward with the scheduled strikes, commuters face a tough compromise on safety, comfort and reliability.

Beaumont Leys park and ride site delayed indefinitely

By Em Brooks

The planned Beaumont Leys Park and Ride scheme which was scheduled to be completed for summer this year has been delayed indefinitely due to a lack of interest.

The £1.4 million site was planned for launching in Summer 2022 with an aim to bring more people to the Beaumont Leys area. 

However, the pandemic saw a massive decline in users and numbers still have not recovered to their pre-lockdown statistics.

Andrew Gibbons, the Programme Manager for Buses at Leicester City Council, said: “The site is currently on hold pending a review of the business case for P&R post-Covid.

“The other three sites remain at 35 per cent of pre-covid use.”

Before these statistics were released, Deputy City Mayor Adam Clarke had described the site as “a great asset to the city.”

The original plan for the park and ride site was not revamping or changing the original bus service, just extending the routes to involve the site which would have worked the same as the other three sites currently in the Beaumont Leys area which offer free parking.

The site was planned to offer 300 spaces and proposed to see 30,000 passengers a year as well as 118,000 km of car travel saved per year through people using the site instead of driving to the shopping centre.

The Park and Ride scheme was a part of the city council’s climate emergency action plan which planned to reduce emissions through use of electric buses like those seen at St Margaret’s bus station as well as the completed plans to establish e-bike hiring stations around the city.

The proposed site

New train strikes set to impact Leicester

PICKET LINE: Strike action will affect journeys from Leicester next week.

By Ben Stevens

More disruption is expected across Leicestershire as fresh train strikes continue to disrupt the national railway system up and down the country.

Strikes last week from October 5-7 meant that East Midlands Railway (EMR) ran a significantly reduced timetable on all of their routes, including their busy London to Nottingham/Sheffield route.

Further industrial action is expected to take place next Monday and Tuesday (OCT 17-18) by the Unite union, with EMR advising passengers to only travel ‘if necessary’ on strike days, which will affect journeys to and from Leicester.

HAVOC: Industrial action disrupts the City’s railway services.

While public support was initially quite low when the rail strikes began in June, it has slowly increased in the following months, as the cost-of-living crisis rumbles on.

Regular commuter Sarah Howard, 42, who travels between Leicester and Nottingham, said: “Although granted the strikes can be quite inconvenient, I think it is really important that people take action in order to get better pay and working conditions that they deserve.

RELATED STORY: Strikes cause disruption in Leicester

“There are people in this country, especially in the transport industry, that are making money far beyond what their work is worth.

“I think at a time where millions of people are struggling with paying their bills and rising food prices, it is only right that these people are challenged. I’m sure there will be more strikes over the winter in other sectors.”

Another regular user of the railway Andrew Macdonald, 49, said: “The strikes have been quite disruptive for me.

“I work a physical job, not one where I could work from home. I also don’t drive, so I have had to be paying for taxis to get to and from work.

“I understand why they are striking, but for me personally it has become a bit frustrating and often leaves me more out of pocket.”

The wave of rail strikes began on June 21 when representatives of the RMT union walked out over pay disputes and changes to working practices.

Since then, members of other transport unions including Unite and ASLEF have also begun industrial action.

Discussions between the unions, rail executives, and the Department of Transport over the summer have failed to come up with a resolution to the crisis, with union leaders warning they are “in it for the long haul.”

For the latest information on the rail strikes affecting Leicestershire visit: https://www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/rail-strike.

DMU students to travel abroad this summer as volunteers with DMUglobal

By Lara Alsaid

DMUglobal is organising multiple volunteering trips all over the world for DMU students this summer.

Aidan McLean, a First Year Economics and International Relations student, will join DMUglobal for a month in Antigua, a small town in Guatemala, not far from the capital Guatemala City, located in a valley with a tropical climate surrounded by volcanos.

Aidan said: ”I am trying to go there with an open mind, I am excited to try the local food, speak to the local people and learn a good amount of Spanish before and during the trip.”

Aidan doing what he loves the most: Travelling

Aidan found out about the trip through an email he got from DMUglobal and felt intrigued to send off an application.

In Antigua, volunteering students including Aidan will be teaching Guatemalan children the English language.

Hopefully, during their free time, they will be able to go on walks up to the volcanos and explore the capital city.

Apart from a tan, Aidan believes he will gain qualities like a greater appreciation for his support network at home but also an appreciation for different cultures and different ways of living.

He also hopes that he will gain teaching skills and the ability to speak Spanish on a decent level. 

Aidan explained that he is doing a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language and this trip will help him turn it into practice. 

Aidan added:” I wanted to go on this trip to make use of the opportunity with the left-over funding I had.”

Living in a different environment, culture and language for a month can benefit students like Aidan who want to live abroad after their university studies.

“It will be a good experience and will test my ability to adapt to different cultures and situations,” Aidan concluded.