Unions say Rishi Sunak is‘putting travellers’ lives at risk’ this Xmas

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National Highways have warned those travelling this Christmas season to be prepared for strike actions as roads may be busier. It comes at a time rail strikes may put more pressure on Britons to drive home this year to see loved ones.

National Highways will begin striking this Thursday over the busy Christmas period and have said their industrial action will cause “minimal” disruption to drivers.

However, National Highways have warned those travelling to be prepared for strike action and to take care as roads may be busier.

The Government-owned company said it was unlikely that more than two percent of their staff would be striking this Christmas period, and said there was little impact when more staff was not working during the Covid pandemic.

The strike will be taking place across London and the southeast of England as the Commercial Services Union has said they want worker pay to match inflation.

The AA has warned the strikes would put “more pressure on ‘smart’ motorway safety systems and those who check it”.

Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, has said the Goverment is risking driver safety by refusing to negotiate with workers.

He said: “Our members, who are affected by the cost of living crisis like everyone else, work hard every day keeping our roads safe,

“The Government is putting travellers’ lives at risk by refusing to negotiate with us. Rishi Sunak could end this dispute today by putting some money on the table.

“We’re aware our action is likely to inconvenience travellers but, even as we escalate it ahead of Christmas, we remind people this dispute could be resolved today.

“Our members are telling us they have to cut back their spending at Christmas time because they are running out of money. They have been offered a below inflation pay award, at a time when inflation is higher than 10 percent.”

The AA was issued an amber warning for this upcoming Christmas weekend on December 23 and 24, meaning drivers will face busy traffic as an expected 17 million cars are to hit the roads on the drive home to see family and friends.

Jack Cousens, the Head of Roads Policy for the AA, said: “As people start driving home for Christmas, we are advising those heading out in their cars to be prepared for some congestion, especially on popular routes heading out of London.

“The rail strikes have convinced more people to travel by car this year, and while hundreds of miles of roadworks have been removed to ease the pain, it might not be enough to keep the queues away.”

He warned that drivers needed to prepare themselves completely before travelling and to make sure drivers packed warm, clothing, water, snacks as well as entertainment for children.

Mr Cousens added: “During the recent snow and icy weather, we attended numerous breakdowns which could have been avoided completely had their car been checked before leaving.

While tyres and oil levels are common items to tick off the list, ensuring screen wash isn’t frozen and wiper blades are in good condition are just as vital, especially with more grit and dirt being kicked up off the road.”

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On Christmas Eve, RMT, the union representing rail workers, will begin striking until December 27 and ScotRail has warned the strikes will disrupt travellers and that there will be no trains on Boxing Day.

David Simpson, ScotRail’s service delivery director, said:  ”It’s really disappointing to see more disruption across the whole Great Britain rail network as a result of the dispute between Network Rail and the RMT at a time when we need to be encouraging more people back to the railway.”

Luke Bosdet, an AA representative, has said the upcoming rail strike is likely to add to motorway delays.

He said: “Let’s say National Highways get a number of collisions relatively close to each other. If their resources are stretched, then they’ll be less able to deal with potential hold-ups.

“The rail strike will add to the traffic and the National Highways strike should make things more difficult.”

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