TRAIN passengers travelling from Sheffield to London or Manchester are facing six days of disruption next month after drivers voted to strike over pensions.
Strikes are pencilled in for Tuesdays and Thursdays on May 1, 3, 8, 10, 15 and 17.
Passengers at Sheffield station reacted with dismay to the news today - and business leaders called for urgent talks.
Suzanne Liversidge, president of Sheffield Chamber, said: “It is important for our members and the wider business community to access the London and Manchester markets - and train services are essential to this.
“I would hope the dispute can be resolved, or that measures are put in place so there is minimal disruption.”
More than three-quarters - 76.4 per cent - of drivers who took part in an ASLEF trade union ballot were in favour of industrial action against East Midlands Trains’ plans to change its pensions scheme.
The firm runs two services an hour from Sheffield to London, and an hourly service through Sheffield between Liverpool and Norwich - one of two express services between Sheffield and Manchester.
A skeleton service is planned on strike days but it will involve less than half of normal Sheffield to London trains and none on the Liverpool-Norwich route, which also calls at Chesterfield and Dronfield.
Passengers will have to use other services by First TransPennine Express and Northern, which are likely to be very busy.
First TransPennine Express said it had no extra carriages available to offer increased capacity between Sheffield and Manchester on strike days but would accept East Midlands Trains tickets.
An ASLEF spokesman said: “Our members on East Midlands Trains have voted overwhelmingly in support of industrial action to protect their pensions.
“East Midlands Trains is proposing to reduce its contributions into the scheme. The company’s short-term cost cutting measures will have long-term implications for all EMT staff and their pensions.”
But East Midlands Trains said the changes would have no impact on employees’ pensions and drivers would themselves pay £500 less each year from July.
David Horne, the company’s managing director, said: “Pension contributions made by our employees will reduce from July this year. This is good news for staff and will have no impact on their pension benefits.”
■ East Midlands Trains’ strike timetable can be viewed online at www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk.
People with advanced purchase tickets can travel the day before or after the strike on East Midlands Trains services or claim a full refund.