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Passenger Rail: Minimum Service Levels

Volume 740: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2023

I am pleased to inform the House of the laying of The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels: Passenger Railway Services) Regulations 2023 before Parliament, following publication of the Department’s response to its consultation on implementing minimum service levels for passenger rail. This represents an important step towards meeting the Government’s manifesto commitment.

The Government are focused on making the hard but necessary long-term decisions that are in the best interests of the country, to put the UK on the right path for the future. The railways enable millions every day to travel to work, access vital services like education and healthcare, and visit family. They also provide choice about where to live and work. Passengers, however, are unable to go about their daily lives when unions take strike action. Rail workers deserve a fair deal, but it is not fair to let the trade unions undermine the livelihoods of others. Minimum service levels already operate in other countries, such as Italy, Spain, and others. There are a number of different approaches to deploying minimum service levels for transport and we have developed a specific approach that will work for passenger rail in the UK.

The Government are firmly committed to striking a fair balance between delivering benefits to passengers, supporting them to make important journeys, and the ability of rail workers to take strike action. The public need reliable and consistent services, and any strike action should not disproportionately impact this, or the wider economy.

The consultation response sets out the evidence received from the public consultation and further engagement, as well as the approach to specifying the relevant passenger rail services and designing the minimum service levels that can be applied to strikes affecting those services.

The regulations will apply in England, Scotland, and Wales and specify three categories of services that will be in scope: train operation services; infrastructure services; and light rail services. Each category has a separate MSL. We have designed the regulations in this manner to address the particular nature of strike action in passenger rail, while ensuring that minimum service levels are proportionate and operationally viable for in-scope employers, given the complex nature of the rail industry.

Relevant rail industry employers are able to make use of minimum service levels as soon as these regulations come into force, which is anticipated to be early December, subject to parliamentary approval.