Saturday, 3 Jun 2023

Eurovision fans face carnage getting to Liverpool for finals

‘It would have been easier to travel to Ukraine and dodge Russian missiles!’: Furious Eurovision fans curse trains strike as they try to get to Liverpool

  • Read more:  Rail strike map, dates and services: How is YOUR journey affected?

Furious Eurovision fans facing a ‘nightmare’ journey to Liverpool have blasted striking rail workers for causing travel chaos and declared: ‘It would have been easy to travel to Ukraine and dodge Russian missiles.’

Thousands of lovers of the annual music bonanza are expected to make their way to the Liverpool to witness the grand final of the song contest, which is being staged in the UK on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine – which is fighting a Russian invasion.

But those hoping to journey to the city by train have been dealt a crushing blow by the latest round of industrial action by train drivers and other rail workers, who are striking today and tomorrow in a long-running dispute over pay. 

The news has meant Eurovision fans face a last-minute scramble to get to Liverpool to watch the UK’s entrant Mae Muller take to the stage, with some taking coach journeys so long ‘they could have flown to Dubai or New York’ in the same time. 

One furious Eurovision lover said: ‘Anyone have any tips to getting to Liverpool for Eurovision tomorrow? Train strikes are a f***ing nightmare. I swear it would have been easier to travel to Ukraine and dodge Russian missiles than trying to get to Liverpool right now.’

Eurovision fans face a last-minute scramble to get to Liverpool to watch the UK’s entrant Mae Muller (pictured) take to the stage, with some taking coach journeys so long ‘they could have flown to Dubai or New York’ in the same time 

Fans of the Eurovision Song Contest have taken to social media to describe the ‘nightmare’ journeys they are facing to get to Saturday’s grand final of the music event, amid on-going strike action by train drivers and rail workers

Closed for business – a customer sign giving information about the train service at a locked entrance to the railway station in Apsley, Hertfordshire, as members of the drivers’ union Aslef stage walk out during their long-running dispute over pay

Other dedicated fans have been begging for lifts from strangers on social media, while some have decided to book a last-minute coach journey to get to Liverpool. 

But many face horrendously long trips by the roads to witness the global phenomenon, which last night staged its last semi-final heat.

One user on Twitter said: ‘Train strikes have put me on a megabus to Liverpool. It’s going to take 7 hours. I could be in New York, Dubai [or] Spain 3x over. But no, Liverpool it is.’ 

READ MORE: Who is Eurovision’s UK entry Mae Muller? Everything you need to know about the shop assistant turned hitmaker who has toured with Little Mix and boasts a huge online following

Although some Eurovision fanatics saw the lighter side of traveling by coach to the grand final, with John Hyde tweeting: ‘If nothing else, the National Express coaches to Liverpool today are going to be wild.’

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef are staging a walkout on Friday at more than a dozen train operators, crippling services across the country.

Further strikes will be held on May 31 and June 3 – the day of the FA Cup final at Wembley.

Meanwhile, members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will strike on Saturday – the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool. 

Passengers are being urged to check before they travel on both days.

Picket lines will be mounted outside railway stations as the unions continue their long-running campaign for a bigger pay rise than has been offered.

But the public is growing increasingly frustrated by the walk outs, with one Eurovision fan saying: ‘I’m 100% pro-industrial action but the train strikes during Eurovision really don’t sit right with me.’ 

Eurovision fans have been left heartbroken by the rail strike action, which is causing major disruption for those hoping to journey to Liverpool to watch Saturday’s grand final 

Thousands are expected to travel into Liverpool to witness the final of the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday, which is the UK is staging on behalf of last year’s winners, Ukraine. Pictured is Queen Machine performing at Thursday’s semi final event 

Travellers with luggage wait outside London Victoria Station which is closed to the public this morning due to strikes

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘We do not want to go on strike – we do not want to inconvenience passengers, we have families and friends who use the railway too, and we believe in investing in rail for the future of this country.

‘But the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence.

READ MORE: Rail strike map, dates and services: How is YOUR journey affected?

‘It is now up to them to come up with a more sensible, and realistic, offer and we ask the Government not to hinder this process.

‘We have been negotiating with employers – the train operating companies – for many months on pay. On several companies we have managed to come to an agreement, and on several others, multi-year deals have been honoured.

‘Unfortunately a number of companies still have their hands tied by the Department for Transport and aren’t able to negotiate a reasonable deal with Aslef members.

‘We are still prepared to negotiate in good faith but, unfortunately, as we have been unable to come to an agreement, we have had to consider industrial action.’

Aslef said a four per cent pay offer was ‘risible and obviously unacceptable’.

Steve Montgomery, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘The upcoming rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute but will also impact those travelling from outside Liverpool and London to come to Eurovision and the FA Cup final, causing disappointment and frustration for those who have planned to attend.

‘It will also further burden our people who have already lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial strain.

‘We understand the impact of these strikes on individuals and businesses alike, and we can only apologise for this unnecessary and damaging disruption.

London Bridge Station was closed to the public this morning during strike action by the ASLEF Union

Great Northern will have no trains on Friday and a limited service on Saturday 

South Western Railway will have no trains on the Isle of Wight on Friday while services will be reduced between London Waterloo and Exeter, in the Romsey area and on the suburban network. Saturday will see a reduced service and only between 7am and 7pm

South Eastern will have no trains on Friday and a reduced service on Saturday 

 Norther Rail will have no trains running on Friday and a reduced service on Saturday and only between 8am and 5pm

Avanti West Coast has no trains running on Friday and a heavily reduced service on Saturday operating between 7am and 7pm only 

C2C – Friday will see its usual timetable. There will be no major impact on Saturday but all services will run to/from London Fenchurch Street and will not call at London Liverpool Street or Stratford

Chiltern Railways will have no trains on Friday. On Saturday, no trains will run north of Banbury. Services that do run will be limited to one train per hour in both directions between London Marylebone and each of Banbury, Oxford and Aylesbury via Amersham, and only between around 9am and 9pm

Cross Country will have no trains on Friday. On Saturday, no direct services will run to or from Birmingham New Street and locations such as Aberdeen, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Nottingham and Stansted Airport. Services that do run will only operate between 7am and 7pm.

 East Midlands Railway has no trains running on Friday. On Saturday, services will run between 7am and 7pm. They will be limited to just one train per hour in each direction between London St Pancras and each of Nottingham, Sheffield and Corby, as well as a handful of regional routes such as between Derby and Matlock.

The Elizabeth Line will have its usual timetable on Friday. On Saturday, the Elizabeth line is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but there will be some alterations to its services. These include no trains between Maidenhead and Reading before 7am or after 7pm

 Grand Central will have its usual timetable on Friday. On Saturday, Grand Central is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but there will be minor alterations to its services

 Great Western Railway will see a limited service on Friday and Saturday between 7.30am and 6.30pm only 

Great Anglia will see a reduced service on Friday that will run only between London Liverpool Street and each of Cambridge, Norwich, Southend and Stansted Airport. On Saturday, trains will run between 7am and 11pm. Some routes will have a reduced frequency, but most will have a normal or near normal service.

LNER: A limited timetable will operate on Friday and Saturday and only between London King’s Cross and both Edinburgh and Leeds.

 London Northwestern Railway will have no trains running Friday. On Saturday, a limited service will run and only between 7am and 7pm. The only open routes will be between Birmingham New Street and each of London Euston, Birmingham International and Liverpool Lime Street.

STANSTED EXPRESS – Friday: Frequencies will be halved to one train per hour in each direction. Saturday: Frequencies will be halved to one per hour in each direction, and trains will start later and finish earlier than normal.

TRANSPENNINE EXPRESS – Friday : No trains. Saturday : A reduced timetable will operate and only between Liverpool Lime Street and each of Huddersfield, Preston and Sheffield, and between Sheffield and Cleethorpes.

 WEST MIDLANDS RAILWAY – Friday : No trains. Saturday : A limited service will run and only between 7am and 7pm. The only open routes will be between Birmingham New Street and each of Wolverhampton, Rugeley Trent Valley and Lichfield Trent Valley; between Kidderminster and Whitlocks End/Dorridge; and between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town.

‘While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately there will be reduced train services across the network between Friday May 12 and Saturday June 3, so our advice is to check before you travel. Passengers with Advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.’

Anthony Smith, chief executive of watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘For those planning to head to Liverpool, strikes could really prove a party-pooper.

‘Many people will be infrequent or first-time train users so may not have realised how wide the disruption will be.

‘Our message to all those travelling, for Eurovision or other reasons, is check before you go, and keep checking. Also, be aware trains that are running may be more crowded than you expect.’

The Rail Delivery Group said that after many weeks of negotiations with the Aslef leadership it had made a ‘revised and fair offer’ including a pay rise of 8% over two years.

‘It would have introduced overdue, common-sense improvements already in place in parts of the network, which would will see more trains running on time for passengers.

‘Sadly, this has been rejected,’ said a spokesperson.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan has accused the Government of acting in ‘bad faith’ during negotiations with the union.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘At some point someone’s going to realise these are Government-led strikes, the Government are interfering their free collective bargaining process and they want unrealistic targets.

‘They sent out a deal before Christmas that we’d never seen, we’d never negotiated and tried to force it through by the back door in a total act of bad faith, and even then we came back from the table.

Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London on Friday morning amid strike action by the ASLEF Union

Travellers stand next to a departure board at Paddington Station in London on Friday on a day of national rail strike action

Trains are stationary in sidings in Peterborough amid national strike action by ASLEF on Friday

Empty platforms at Paddington Station in London on a day of rail strike action on Friday 

‘We suspended all action in the hope of finding a way forward and then what happens? 

‘We sit down for three months in good faith, we agree a process that we’re going to undertake and then right at the end someone interferes, revokes it, and puts out a deal that would contain all the red lines we previously opposed in those talks, destining it to fail.

‘I don’t think the Government and the companies want a solution.’

Speaking this morning, rail minister Huw Merriman said he thought it was not democratic for the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to opt not to put the UK Government’s pay offer to its train worker members.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Conservative said: ‘The evidence for whether it is or isn’t fair and reasonable is down to the members.

‘If you look at what happened with the RMT, who are striking tomorrow, they put a similar offer to their members who work on Network Rail and that was accepted – 76% of those who voted accepted it.

‘That would seem to indicate that the workforce will judge it as fair and reasonable, will take it because they want to move on.

‘Why is it the case that an RMT member that works on the tracks gets a pay rise and gets the chance to vote on a pay rise, but fellow members who work on a train don’t get that opportunity?

‘It doesn’t seem fair or democratic to me.’

Nicky Kelvin, head of travel website The Points Guy UK, told MailOnline today: ‘This month’s walk-out by members of the RMT Union is set to affect passengers hoping to reach Liverpool for Saturday night’s Eurovision Song Contest final. 

Fans of Eurovision who are travelling up to Liverpool for the 2023 edition of the contest could be affected by strikes

‘The decision for further strikes is really disappointing for passengers, especially as how the UK has not hosted the popular song contest since the late nineties and so all eyes will be on us – not just our song entry! 

‘The song contest is a huge moment not only for Liverpool but also for the UK and these strikes will purposely affect thousands of people who are planning to attend.

‘With travel to and from the venue likely to be disrupted and a significant impact onto the usual functional services across the rail network, those people looking to reach Liverpool via train should look at alternative transport methods in order to reach the event and to avoid the stress and disruption the cancellations will certainly cause.

‘Another major event which will also be majorly affected is the annual FA Cup Final – taking place in Wembley in June and one in which ticket holders should look to plan ahead and to find alternative routes.’

How will the latest train strikes affect each rail service? 

Train services are being hit by more strike action.

Members of Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at train operators will walk out in long-running disputes on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Here is a breakdown of each operator’s plan for strike days:

– Avanti West Coast

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: Fewer trains than normal will run and only between 7am and 7pm, with the exception of some services to and from Liverpool which is hosting the Eurovision song contest.

– c2c

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: No major impact but all services will run to/from London Fenchurch Street and will not call at London Liverpool Street or Stratford.

– Caledonian Sleeper

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: The Caledonian Sleeper does not operate on Saturday nights.

– Chiltern Railways

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: No trains will run north of Banbury.

Services that do run will be limited to one train per hour in both directions between London Marylebone and each of Banbury, Oxford and Aylesbury via Amersham, and only between around 9am and 9pm.

– CrossCountry

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: No direct services will run to or from Birmingham New Street and locations such as Aberdeen, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Nottingham and Stansted Airport.

Services that do run will only operate between 7am and 7pm.

– East Midlands Railway

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: Services will run between 7am and 7pm.

They will be limited to just one train per hour in each direction between London St Pancras and each of Nottingham, Sheffield and Corby, as well as a handful of regional routes such as between Derby and Matlock.

– Elizabeth line

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: The Elizabeth line is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but there will be some alterations to its services.

These include no trains between Maidenhead and Reading before 7am or after 7pm.

– Gatwick Express

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: No trains but Southern and Thameslink will serve Gatwick Airport.

– Grand Central

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: Grand Central is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but there will be minor alterations to its services.

– Great Northern

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A limited service will run and only between 7am and 7pm. There will be no trains between Ely and King’s Lynn.

– Great Western Railway

Friday: A limited service will run and only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

The only open routes will be between: London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads; Reading and Didcot; Reading and Basingstoke; Reading and Redhill; Westbury and Swindon; Cardiff and Bristol; and Plymouth and Gunnislake.

The Night Riviera sleeper service has been cancelled.

Saturday: A limited service will run and only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

More routes will be open compared with Friday, including additions such as between London Paddington and Didcot Parkway; London Paddington and Cardiff; Slough and Windsor; and Penzance and Plymouth.

– Greater Anglia

Friday: A reduced service will run and only between London Liverpool Street and each of Cambridge, Norwich, Southend and Stansted Airport.

Saturday: Trains will run between 7am and 11pm.

Some routes will have a reduced frequency, but most will have a normal or near normal service.

– Heathrow Express

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: No trains after 9pm.

– Hull Trains

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: Usual timetable.

– London North Eastern Railway (LNER)

Friday and Saturday: A limited timetable will operate and only between London King’s Cross and both Edinburgh and Leeds.

– London Northwestern Railway

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A limited service will run and only between 7am and 7pm.

The only open routes will be between Birmingham New Street and each of London Euston, Birmingham International and Liverpool Lime Street.

– London Overground

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: London Overground is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but there will be minor alterations to some of its services.

– Lumo

Friday and Saturday: Usual timetable.

– Merseyrail

Friday and Saturday: No impact from the strikes. Additional services will run due to Eurovision.

– Northern

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A limited service will run and only between 8am and 5pm.

Only a handful of routes will be open, such as between Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester; Leeds and York; and Darlington and Saltburn.

– ScotRail

Friday and Saturday: Usual timetable.

– South Western Railway

Friday: No trains on the Isle of Wight.

Services will be reduced between London Waterloo and Exeter, in the Romsey area and on the suburban network.

Saturday: A reduced service will operate and only between 7am and 7pm.

The only open routes will be between London Waterloo and each of Windsor via Hounslow; Windsor via Richmond; Woking; and Basingstoke; between Basingstoke and Salisbury; and on the Isle of Wight

– Southeastern

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A reduced service will operate, with only 58 out of 180 stations open.

Trains that do run will be busier than normal, and services are likely to start later and finish earlier than usual.

– Southern

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A reduced service will operate. No trains will run between Hemel Hempstead and Clapham Junction; London Bridge and Norwood Junction; Southampton Central and Barnham; and Eastbourne and Ashford International.

– Stansted Express

Friday: Frequencies will be halved to one train per hour in each direction.

Saturday: Frequencies will be halved to one per hour in each direction, and trains will start later and finish earlier than normal.

– Thameslink

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: Services will be split north and south, with nothing running between London St Pancras and London Blackfriars.

– TransPennine Express

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A reduced timetable will operate and only between Liverpool Lime Street and each of Huddersfield, Preston and Sheffield, and between Sheffield and Cleethorpes.

– Transport for Wales

Friday: Usual timetable.

Saturday: Transport for Wales is not involved in the industrial dispute with the RMT but some of its services will be disrupted.

Several stations such as Birmingham International, Liverpool Lime Street and Manchester Piccadilly will only be open for services between 7am and 7pm.

West Midlands Railway

Friday: No trains.

Saturday: A limited service will run and only between 7am and 7pm.

The only open routes will be between Birmingham New Street and each of Wolverhampton, Rugeley Trent Valley and Lichfield Trent Valley; between Kidderminster and Whitlocks End/Dorridge; and between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town.

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