But as they put up their placards and signs at the top of Butler Street, trains from and to Manchester Airport, London and Glasgow were arriving and departing from the station.
It was a much reduced skeleton service with no local or Northern trains. The sunlit platforms would be busy for a short while, followed after a train’s departure by unusual quietness and a near total absence of passengers.
Some rail travellers arrived at the station in ignorance of the strike thinking it was business as usual. Others bound for a day out in Manchester were concerned about disruption to their journeys home.
Passengers were glad they were among the fortunate whose trains were running.
What do striking rail workers in Preston say?
One striking train manager, who declined to be named, said: “A lot of people at the moment think it (the strike) is all to do with pay. But it’s not to do with pay, it is to protect people’s jobs, protect safety and help the public.”
Another train manager Alex said: “If there’s a track fault is a drone going to fix it?”
A third worker added they were prepared to carry on striking “indefinitely” and added: “I think it’s a long haul. It’s coming down to Government and the Government don’t want to give people a pay rise.”
The group comprised some 20 -30 strikers with numbers fluctuating throughout the day.
Station reduced hours
The ticket office was closed due to the industrial action, but staff were available on site to advise customers of the changed schedule. Customer Service assistant Beth who was one of those offering guidance said: “People are understanding. It’s been well advertised.”
What do affected passengers in Preston say?
Millie Fowler and Adam Rooney, 20, had been due to get a train from Leyland to Preston for a day trip to Manchester but said they had had to get a lift to the city station as services were not operating from Leyland. Millie said: ”We’re just hoping it’s not cancelled.”
Retired couple Richard and Christine Wise from Preston were due to travel to Leeds to help care for their grandchildren. Richard,73, said he had not been aware of the strike, thinking it was just affecting the London Glasgow service. He said: “Train drivers I haven’t got any sympathy for. They’re on £50,00 -£60,000 a year, but people on the platform I sympathise (with) because they are on a basic wage, some I believe are on the worst thing ever invented – zero hours.”
He said if there were problems with their journey it would inconvenience his daughter and family.
Meanwhile Dan Black, 34, from Scotland had changed his plans because of the strike. He had flown from Cornwall to Manchester airport and caught the train to Preston where he was going to stay with his aunt for a few days before travelling up to Scotland.
UCLan mechanical engineering students Vaibhav Sharma, 25, and Paril Shah, 23, were heading for Manchester. Vaibhav said he was concerned the strike might affect their journey home and force them to get a taxi or bus at extra cost. Vaibhav said he was not in favour of the strike adding that knock-on effects would impact them: “It’s all about time and money.”
What do union bosses in Preston say?
Mark McCarick, Preston branch chair of the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers), said: “Everybody here (on strike today) is based in Preston either from train operators Trans Pennine Express and Avanti West Coast or Network Rail.”
He said the mood of workers was “still upbeat because we’re still in dispute. We seem to be going nowhere. It needs to be (upbeat) because we’ve started something others are now joining in with.”
He pointed to the actions of Royal Mail staff, barristers and the fire service on pay, with the fire service recently rejecting a two per cent pay rise. He said: “I think it’s going to gain momentum. I just think everybody is thinking we’ve had enough now.”
He said MPs were in line for a pay rise but many workers who had worked through the pandemic such as rail, post office and fire workers were being offered pay rises of two and three percent even though inflation is now at 11 per cent.
Mark emphasised the dispute concerned not just pay but term and conditions and pensions and “the jobs of 2,5000 rail workers who Network Rail are proposing to make redundant.”
He added that Network Rail has three different depots in Preston employing up to 400 workers and some of those are at risk of redundancy under the current proposals. Citing three major train accident disasters in recent years he said: “The proposals we believe are going to make the trains less safe to run.
“On average (striking) people are losing £100 to £150 a day. It’s not what we want to do. Strike action is a last resort…There’s no real point in taking strike action if it’s not going to inconvenience people. We are educating these people to what the Government are proposing.”
Across the country only around 22% of services were running, with just half of the network open and the last trains to many destinations were departing mid-afternoon. Trains will also be disrupted on Thursday morning with a later start as employees return to duties.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said today: "When we get a negotiated settlement that our members support then the strikes will cease.”
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: "Despite our best efforts to find a breakthrough, I'm afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week.”