The planned Metrolink strike over four days next month could pose serious safety issues for concert goers to the Parklife Festival and the Etihad Stadium, it has been claimed.
Around 80,000 fans are expected at the sold-out Heaton Park festival, where the headliners include Cardi B, George Ezra, The Streets and Solange, and a potential 60,000 at Manchester City’s ground for the return of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on 7th June.
Muse could attract a similar number to the Etihad the following night.
Metrolink would have been expected to carry the bulk of concert goers to both venues.
Naveed Arshad, a director of Street Cars, the official taxi company partner to Parklife, fears that the chaos could expose many vulnerable people to danger.
“We can only do what we can do in terms of transporting people to where they want to go,” he said. “Our experience is that even with the trams running there have been long wait times.
“I fear there will be a big increase in illegal, unlicensed touters descending on these venues offering people lifts – and the police may not be able to do anything about it.
“These people will be licking their lips at the prospects of making a lot of money out of people who may have had a lot to drink and are desperate to get home. The fact that these touters are not insured may be the least of the dangers facing vulnerable passengers.
“The situation could become even worse if Transport for Greater Manchester doesn’t put on bus replacement services.”
The Unite Union has called out its 200 members working for Metrolink over four days – from 9pm on 7th June until 5.59am on Monday 10th June in a dispute over pay.
The workers, who cover three different groups, voted by 96 per cent for the walk-out. Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union, called for constructive talks with the employer Keolis Amey Metrolink Ltd to resolve the dispute that will bring the 93-stop system to a halt
They acknowledge that the strike will clash with the Parklife Festival being staged the same weekend.
The company, which runs Metrolink on behalf of Transport for Greater Manchester, has offered between one and five per cent for the year starting January 2019 depending on which group a worker belongs.
Unite regional officer Steve Davies said: “The company has adopted a ‘divide and rule’ policy in offering different pay rises to separate groups which we won’t tolerate – we are seeking a substantial pay rise for all our non-driver members.
“The company has also tied in any offer to a serious erosion of current employment conditions. The bosses are expecting a lot for their current offer including a worsening of unsocial hours working and new rosters impacting on our members’ work/life balance.
“We are calling out the network controllers across the 62-mile system and without them the whole network will grind to a halt very quickly.
“We appreciate that the strike action is taking place during the popular Parklife Festival and travel disruption is on cards for festival goers – that’s why we are calling for urgent talks with the management to reach a fair settlement before the bands start playing.”
Aline Frantzen, Managing Director at KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM), who operate Metrolink for TfGM, said: “We’re disappointed that Unite have notified us of their intention to take strike action during Parklife weekend and we’re sorry for the disruption that will cause to customers if they go ahead with a strike.
“KAM is doing all we can to put robust contingency plans in place for alternative transport and we will give clear information to customers as early as possible.
“We have already held discussions with Unite, supported by ACAS, in an attempt to find a resolution and we remain committed to the success of these talks.”
TfGM’s Head of Metrolink, Danny Vaughan, said: “TfGM has been informed that as part of ongoing pay talks, members from three of KAM’s bargaining groups – business support, customer support and engineering – have voted in favour of industrial action over the Parklife weekend.
“This is clearly disappointing as it obviously has the potential to disrupt one of the biggest events of the year, but talks are continuing and we’d encourage Unite and KAM to continue these discussions with a view to finding a mutually acceptable solution.”
A TfGM spokesman refused to comment on the possibility of replacement buses being deployed if the tram strike goes ahead.