Wales-England rugby rail strike 'will be disastrous'

The train strike planned for Wales' Six Nations opener against England in Cardiff on Friday will be disastrous for the country's image, says an MP.

The rail union RMT is due to strike, claiming its pay offer from Arriva Trains Wales amounted to a cut.

But Vale of Glamorgan Conservative MP Alun Cairns called on the assembly government to intervene, saying he had "no sympathy" with the train drivers.

Arriva Trains Wales said its 12% pay offer over two years was very generous.

But RMT general secretary Bob Crow said the offer was "unacceptable" and would have left members "with an effective pay cut and which was loaded with strings".

The strike has been called for the day Wales meet England in the evening fixture at the Millennium Stadium.

Mr Cairns, who is also AM for South West Wales, said: "The situation on Friday will be horrendous and impossible for those travelling on trains into Cardiff.

"Not only will it send the wrong message to the rest of the UK and potential investors, but it will be disastrous if it isn't stopped.

'Get real'

"It will be a disaster in terms of PR, a disaster in terms of organisation and a disaster in terms of health and safety.

"I hope the assembly government will use all its might to try and force the union to back down."

Image caption Many fans will hope to travel into Cardiff by train for the Wales-England game

Mr Cairns also called on Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones to stop "ignoring" the situation and said train drivers needed to "get real" in tough economic times.

Mr Jones has called on both sides in the strike to negotiate to try to avert the action, saying it would cause "unnecessary inconvenience".

But he said the assembly government should not be directly involved in industrial relations matters.

An estimated 32,000 fans usually use the company's services on match days.

On Thursday the train operating firm's operations and safety director, Peter Leppard, said it was "still talking" to the rail union but a resolution before next Friday "does not look hopeful".

Mr Leppard called the strike "completely unjustifiable".

He said the pay offer would raise an Arriva driver's basic salary to £39,117, an "astonishingly good" income in Wales and a "mid table" salary among train drivers in the UK.

But the RMT says staff do not believe the current offer goes "far enough to protect their standard of living".

The Welsh Assembly Government has been asked to comment.

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