Next week’s rail strikes could devastate Britain’s post-Covid recovery and cost key industries more than a billion pounds, the government has been told.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry group UK Hospitality, warned that tourism and leisure businesses were already fragile after the pandemic shutdowns and would take a “big hit”.
It comes after the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union confirmed industrial action would continue on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, although disruption is possible for the rest of the week.
Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Nicholls said: ‘At best we think it will take a hit to hospitality revenues of over half a billion pounds.
“But that assumes that many people will be traveling on the in-between days when trains and metros will still be disrupted – it could be more important than that.
“And if you look at the whole of the tourism, leisure and theater industries as a whole, you’re certainly looking at an economic hit of over a billion pounds.”
Strikes at Network Rail and 13 other train operators are expected over three days next week, while London Underground workers walk out on Tuesday.
There is, however, some optimism that commuters will find alternative routes to city centres.
Stagecoach, the country’s largest bus and coach operator, said next week’s bookings for its Megabus service had increased by 85%.
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 a deal.
“Next week’s strikes are so devastating because … we were starting to get back on our feet, to rebuild those cash reserves,” she said.
“It’s a big hit next week where we will lose the bulk of a week’s revenue for many of these businesses in the city centre, and in particular central London.
“We urge all parties to this dispute to try to come together to resolve this issue so as not to disadvantage commuters, visitors, tourists or harm our businesses.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel said: “With the next train strikes fast approaching, many people will be wondering what to do if they have purchased a ticket and their train has now been cancelled.
“If you can’t travel and have an unused ticket, you should be able to cancel and get a refund at no cost.
“A full refund also applies if you have started your trip but cannot complete it due to delays or cancellations, and are therefore returned to your departure point.”