A North East MP has accused rail unions of holding the country to ‘ransom’ and threatening to ‘freeze our network in time’ ahead of mass strike action set to begin on Tuesday (June 21).

The strikes will go ahead after last ditch talks failed to resolve a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, the RMT union said on Monday (June 20) afternoon.

Commuters in the North East can expect major disruption on the rail network with mainline services cancelled and part of the Tyne and Wear Metro through Sunderland closed.

Meanwhile motorists are being warned to expect a surge in traffic on North East roads as train passengers switch to cars.

Read more: Rail strikes: Teesside MP apologises for action 'misery'

Matt Vickers, MP for Stockton South, has accused rail union RMT of holding the country to ‘ransom’ and Labour of ‘siding with trade union paymasters over ordinary people’.

He told The Northern Echo: “These strikes are inevitably going to impact commuters in the North East with a number of train stations in my own constituency set to close and cause mayhem for rail users.

"Strikes are not the answer. I would urge RMT to continue discussions to find solutions that work for rail passengers and workers.

“Politically, we must be united in standing up for rail users, unfortunately Labour politicians across the region have sided with their trade union paymasters over ordinary people.

The Northern Echo: Disruption is expected on the rail network all week. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTDisruption is expected on the rail network all week. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

"RMT are holding this country to ransom and are threatening to freeze our network in time.

“For our rail network to keep pace with the huge changes required in the post-pandemic period, it must be reformed.”

More than 50,000 railway workers will walkout as part of the national strike, in the biggest dispute on the rail network in over 30 years.

Read more: Rail strikes: North East drivers warned of major delays

Train operator Trans Pennine Express has cancelled all its trains between Newcastle and York, including through stations in County Durham, Teesside, and North Yorkshire. LNER has advised passengers to ‘avoid’ travel and warned of ‘last minute’ disruption to services.

The Tyne and Wear Metro will be closed between Pelaw and South Hylton where it uses track owned and operated by Network Rail with passengers urged to find alternative travel or put off their journeys. The rest of the Metro will run as normal.

Northern Trains will be running a skeleton service across the week.

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer of Northern Trains, said: “We’ve done everything we can to offer people across the North of England a skeleton service – but our advice remains not to travel.

“The timetable we have put in place has been agreed with Network Rail, who have had to consider the requirements of other train operators and freight services on the network.”

“We apologise in advance for the disruption and inconvenience that the RMT’s industrial action will cause. We continue to be keen to speak to the RMT to find a resolution and avoid any future strikes.”

Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland South and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Keir Starmer, told The Northern Echo: "Labour don't want to see this strike go ahead, but rather than do their job and fix the mess they have created, desperate Tory ministers are spoiling for a fight to distract from their chaotic, discredited and aimless Government.

“The Secretary of State is refusing to give train operating companies the power to discuss pay and yet expects resolutions when he is failing to cooperate.

“We need more investment in our rail network. I fully back the re-opening of the Leamside line to allow for the return of rail services to the left behind communities along the line.

Read more: Rail strikes: How North East passengers will be impacted

“Washington is the one of the largest towns in England without a rail link, but its car ownership levels are less than the national average, meaning more people rely on the often-infrequent bus services.

“Reintroducing rail services is a no-brainer, to enable residents access to recreation, work and education around the region, as well as enabling people to come to Washington for these purposes."

The Northern Echo: Tyne and Wear Metro services will be affected between Pelaw and South Hylton. Picture: NQ STAFFTyne and Wear Metro services will be affected between Pelaw and South Hylton. Picture: NQ STAFF

Downing Street has said the Government won’t be taking part in ongoing talks as the dispute is between the unions and the train operators.

They said the train operators believed it was not "the Government's place to be at the table and it would not be helpful to the ongoing discussions to insert the Government into the negotiating process at this stage".

The strikes will affect events including Glastonbury festival, Barry Manilow’s concert at the Utilita Arena Newcastle, as well as school exams.

Read more: Three Teesside stations to close during rail strikes

The TUC said ministers in Westminster were insisting on imposing cuts and planning to change the law so that employers can draft in agency workers during industrial action, which it added was reminiscent of the action recently taken by P&O.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government has the power to help end this dispute but rather than working in good faith to find a negotiated settlement, ministers are inflaming tensions and trying to pitch worker against worker.

"Instead of threatening to do a P&O on these workers and rip up their rights, ministers should be getting people around the table to help agree a fair deal."


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054