Rail strike rumbles closer

More transport problems could be unleashed, adding to the ongoing merchant haulage crisis, if staff at the UK’s biggest rail freight carrier vote for strike action in long-standing dispute.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is in conflict with DB Cargo UK, which handles half of all the country’s rail freight, over the union rights of members being transferred to a new intermodal joint venture with haulier Maritime Transport Group.

DB Cargo UK runs numerous services into Europe, through the Eurotunnel, and any strike would have considerable repercussions, with more demand for ferry, or short-sea services, placing a significant impact on the country’s freight capability, and in particular put pressure back on a road freight sector that is already struggling with endemic driver and capacity shortages.

In January, DB Cargo UK and Maritime Transport announced the launch of their JV, Maritime Intermodal, with DB Cargo running Maritime Intermodal’s four rail operations out of Felixstowe and Southampton, while Maritime Intermodal will be responsible for DB Cargo terminals in Trafford Park, Manchester, and Wakefield.

Whilst the TSSA want to ensure that the union rights of the workers are transferred with the workers to the new joint venture, they are currently deadlocked in negotiations with management.

The two sides have agreed to continue discussions over the coming days, but TSSA said its position was clear and unwavering.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said. “No one wants to see Britain’s freight network grind to a halt, especially in these uncertain times. However, this dispute raises just such a spectre.”

If no agreement can be reached, the TSSA is planning to ballot its members on national strike action, which would bring UK rail freight to a standstill.