Thousands of Glastonbury Festival-goers could face massive travel disruption following a rail union’s promise to ‘shut down the country’s railway network’ later this month.

The RMT union is launching three days of strike action on June 21, 23, and 25 June, due to what it says is the inability of rail employers to come to a negotiated settlement about pay.

This could cause chaos for those planning to travel to Castle Cary railway station, a popular arrival point for the festival.

Transport Secretary Grant Schapps has accused RMT of "jumping the gun" and said strikes could put off people using trains.

Why have RMT called for strikes?

An RMT Rail Union spokesman said: "More than 50,000 railway workers will walk out as part of three days of national strike action later this month, in the biggest dispute on the network since 1989.

"The union will shut down the country's railway network on 21st, 23rd and 25th June, due to the inability of the rail employers to come to a negotiated settlement with RMT.

"Network Rail and the train operating companies have subjected their staff to multiyear pay freezes and plan to cut thousands of jobs which will make the railways unsafe.

"Despite intense talks with the rail bosses, RMT has not been able to secure a pay proposal nor a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies."

In a separate dispute over pensions and job losses, London Underground RMT members will take strike action on June 21, the RMT says.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: "Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously.

"We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1pc and rising.

"Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.

"Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This unfairness is fuelling our members' anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.

"RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.’”

What does the government say?

Mr Schapps told the BBC the announcement was "incredibly disappointing" and accused RMT of "jumping the gun" by announcing strike dates "when talks have only just begun".

He said: "We once again want to urge the unions to come to talks with the rail industry so we can work together to build a better, more modern, passenger-focused, railway."

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating firms, also urged the union to call off the strikes.

Steve Montgomery, the industry body's chairman, said "no one wins in the event of a strike".

South Western Railway's response

Following the announcement of industrial action dates by the RMT union, South Western Railway said services will be significantly affected between Tuesday 21 and Saturday 25 June. 

SWR is working closely with Network Rail and other train operators to finalise a significantly reduced timetable for those dates, but is warning customers to expect severe disruption on days impacted by industrial action.  

With Network Rail signallers and more than 2,100 SWR RMT members taking industrial action, it is likely that significant parts of the South Western Railway network will be unavailable for travel on those dates.

Where routes are open, it is likely that far fewer trains will run than normal. 

As a result, customers are urged to change their travel dates if they can and, for those who have to travel on those dates, to begin looking for alternative methods of transport.  

Teams are also working to update hospitals, schools, airports and businesses across the network on what this will mean for them. 

Claire Mann, Managing Director of South Western Railway, commented: 

“I understand that the announcement of upcoming industrial action will worry many of our customers, particularly against the backdrop of significant cost of living pressures.  

“We are carefully finalising contingency plans, but I’m afraid this action will mean that many customers will be unable to travel by rail. 

“If customers can change their date of travel, or make alternative arrangements, I urge them to begin making those arrangements as soon as possible.  

“I appreciate how challenging this may be and would like to thank customers for their patience as the rail industry responds to this unprecedented industrial action.” 

SWR will publish details of its reduced timetable when finalised and customers should check the website for latest updates: