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Second day of rail strikes cut off Isle of Sheppey and workers stand at picket line in Maidstone and Dover


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The rail strike has cut off the Isle of Sheppey.

The line linking Sheerness and Queenborough to Kemsley and Sittingbourne was closed again today (Thursday) (June 23) as part of the biggest rail strike in 30 years.

Gates closed at Sheerness
Gates closed at Sheerness

Gates at Sheerness station remained padlocked.

The only sign of life was a lone worker in the ticket office explaining to any passengers who turned up why they couldn't let the train take the strain.

The shutters at the entrance to the platforms were pulled down and there were signs stuck to gates, doors and ticket machines announcing: "There are no trains today due to industrial action."

Strike notice at Sheerness
Strike notice at Sheerness

They added that the first train from Sheerness tomorrow (Friday) will not be until 8.15am and warned: "There may also be further disruption to this because of staff not being available and trains being in the wrong place overnight."

The Sheerness branch line is used by commuters to London and by pupils travelling to secondary schools in Sittingbourne and students from the mainland accessing the Sheppey College.

The Royal Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) is staging three days of strikes over job cuts, pay and conditions.

Not the ticket at Sheerness
Not the ticket at Sheerness

The first was on Tuesday and the third will be on Saturday. More strikes are threatened.

The union, which has pickets outside Maidstone East railway station, wants the threat of compulsory redundancies removed and is demanding a pay rise in line with soaring inflation.

Maidstone Greens have showed their solidarity with local rail workers at the picket line at Maidstone East.

Meeting the team on the picket line, Cllr Stuart Jeffery said, “This is a fight that must be won. The RMT are not asking for anything outrageous, just a reasonable pay rise and for their jobs, conditions and the safety of the railways to be protected.

RMT pickets outside Maidstone East railway station. Picture: Alan Smith
RMT pickets outside Maidstone East railway station. Picture: Alan Smith

“Two years ago the government asked us to clap key workers, now they are standing idle while the train operating companies threaten redundancies and reduce safety inspections. The government needs to be at the table, this is public transport after all.

“We offer solidarity to the strikers and will stand with them to protect our rail services and workers.”

The picket line at Dover Priory Railway Station
The picket line at Dover Priory Railway Station

Network Rail and the train operators, including Southeastern which serves Kent, insist modernisation is vital and are seeking to reduce overheads and use more new technology. Network Rail plans to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs as it tries to save £2bn over the next two years.

* How have you been affected by the rail strike? Email your stories here. jnurden@thekmgroup.co.uk

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