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Rail strikes cost hospitality £3.5bn

Train strikes have cost the UK’s hospitality and night-time sectors £3.5 billion (US$4.3bn) in lost sales, a figure that could double if industrial action continues into the festive season.

UK train strikes
Some train operators are due to go on strike on 30 September and 4 October 2023

Industrial action over pay has been ongoing since 2022, with additional strikes by trade union Aslef due to take place on Saturday 30 September and Wednesday 4 October.

Trade body the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warned that the £3.5bn sales loss for hospitality could double if industrial action continues into the crucial Christmas trading period for businesses.

Michael Kill, CEO of NTIA, said: “We are deeply frustrated at the recent announcement of further rail action by the RMT and Aslef.

“The continued disruptions to the rail services [have] caused immense damage to the hospitality, events and night-time economy sectors, resulting in staggering losses of up to £3.5bn. This situation is simply unsustainable, and we urge all parties involved to come to a resolution swiftly.

“The impact of these ongoing disruptions on our industry has been severe, and it cannot continue unchecked.”

Kill voiced his concern over the timing of the latest strikes, as the industry enters the critical “golden quarter” (October-December).

“This period is crucial for our businesses, as a significant portion of our annual revenue is generated during this time, and it [will help to] sustain us through the slower months in early 2024,” he noted.

“The losses incurred due to the rail disruptions threaten the livelihoods of countless individuals and businesses within our industry, with many worried that the continued industrial action could double the current losses to the sector.”

The NTIA is calling for a swift end to the dispute to support the hospitality and night-time sectors and ensure their survival.

Rail strikes from 31 May to 3 June were expected to cost the UK hospitality industry £132 million (US$164m), bringing the total impact on the sector to £3.25bn (US$4bn), according to trade body UKHospitality.

‘Lack of progress’

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “As we have seen over the past year, hospitality businesses and their staff continue to suffer as collateral damage as a result of ongoing rail strikes.

“The elephant in the room is the complete lack of progress made in recent months by the negotiating parties and it’s time that everyone involved gets back round the table to reach a resolution that sees the end to rail strikes.”

UKHospitality said the government’s Transport Committee has recommended that sectors without the ability to adopt flexible or remote working patterns on strike days, such as hospitality and the night-time sector, should be protected by minimum levels of service.

Nicholls continued: “While the Transport Committee is absolutely right to point out that sectors acutely affected by rail strikes, like hospitality, are properly considered and protected by future legislation, the real priority needs to be reaching a resolution to the current dispute.

“This is especially important for hospitality, as we approach the busy Christmas period, the revenues of which are often crucial to help venues through the fallow period of January to March.

“Without an urgent end to this dispute, the £3.5bn that hospitality has lost in sales will only continue to grow and that is not good for the thousands of hospitality businesses and the millions of people they employ.”

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