RAIL passengers in Boston will have to use replacement bus services today in the first of a series of strikes by the train drivers union.
East Midlands Trains, which runs services in the town, is putting on buses for people travelling between Nottingham and Boston.
Any passengers wanting to go to Skegness will be able to use their train tickets on the Stagecoach Interconnect 7 bus service.
The same arrangements will be in place on May 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17.
The strike surrounds a dispute over pensions. East Midlands Trains argues that changes from July will mean lower contributions for employees.
David Horne, Managing Director for East Midlands Trains, said: “Pension contributions made by our employees will reduce from July this year. This is good news for our staff and will have no impact on their pension benefits.
“It follows recommendations from a recent pension valuation, which is an independent financial health check on the scheme. We have written to our employees to explain the forthcoming changes and the background.
“It makes ASLEF’s stance difficult to understand and we are surprised that our train drivers are planning to take industrial action over this matter.
“We cannot see how ASLEF’s demands, to continue with higher pension contributions when they are not required, are in the best interests of their members.
“We know that elsewhere in the rail industry, and in other sectors, employees are being asked to contribute more towards their pension schemes, but this is not the case at East Midlands Trains.
“It really is good news for our people that the joint contributions are reducing for all of our employees, and for drivers this will save them around £500 a year.
“What ASLEF is suggesting would mean employees paying hundreds of pounds a year more into the scheme than is needed for the benefits they receive - particularly at a time everyone in the country is facing a squeeze in living standards. Industrial action would mean employees unnecessarily being even more out of pocket.
“Our offer of further talks remains open to ASLEF. However, despite this action being called, we are still determined to run a good train service for our passengers and full details of the timetable are available at www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan disagrees with the suggestion that members will pay more if they stick to the current deal.
He said: “To cut pension contributions in the current climate is highly irresponsible. It is widely believed that fund’s assets have dramatically reduced since the last valuation.
“Also, the charitable-sounding statement that drivers would save money ignores the fact that the pension scheme is split 60/40 between the employer and the employee - so if our members are saving £500, the company is saving £750. In total that’s £1,250 a year less going into the fund per active member.
“This is simply storing up trouble for the next valuation and the future of the scheme. It is disingenuous to suggest our members are getting something for nothing.
“The current owners of the East Midlands Trains franchise may have no responsibility over the pension fund in a few years, whereas our members face the prospect of either cripplingly high contribution rates or reduced benefits due to a short-term cost-cutting decision made by EMT that has left the scheme in deficit.”