'Train drivers' strike could ruin our trip to Olympics, say Leicester families
Rail services during the Olympics could be severely disrupted if planned strikes go ahead.
East Midlands Trains (EMT) drivers are set to walk out in a row over pensions.
The strikes are planned for August 6, 7 and 8, when gold medal favourite Usain Bolt defends his 200m crown and British hurdling hopefuls Dai Greene and Perri Shakes-Drayton compete for gold.
EMT condemned the move by drivers' union Aslef and said it would do what it could to reduce disruption.
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Among those who may have to change their travel plans are Margaret Taylor, from Humberstone, Leicester, and her family.
Mrs Taylor, 68, said: "Six of us – my son and four grandchildren – have tickets to see the decathlon on August 8. We were planning to leave Leicester at 6am to get there in time for the start.
"We have been planning this since last summer and all of us are very excited to be witnessing such an historic event.
"I have sympathy with the train personnel and their pensions as a pensioner myself.
"We will all be very disappointed if this goes ahead and potentially ruins our day."
Amanda Fitzgerald said: "I have already bought rail tickets for myself, my five-year-old and three-year-old to watch the triathlon on August 7.
"What on earth will happen to these? It will already be stressful enough travelling to London on my own with two small children, but this is now adding extra worry. I could cry.
"I've spent money on rail and underground tickets and a sightseeing tour.
"If we can't get there, I'll have lost more than £100 and have two extremely upset little boys.
"As someone who was made redundant in November, I think these drivers should be grateful to still have a job."
The call for more strikes came only days before planned talks aimed at resolving the issue.
David Horne, managing director of EMT, said: "This is yet another example of Aslef playing games and is a real kick in the teeth for our customers.
"We're particularly surprised that Aslef has announced further strike dates rather than putting the offer, that was accepted in principle in June, to their members.
"If the strike action does go ahead, we will be pulling out all the stops to ensure people can still travel by train."
The union is opposing proposed £500 cuts in the contributions to each worker's annual pension.
The company and an independent auditor have said this would not impact on drivers when they retire.
The Mercury attempted to contact Aslef to ask about the timing of the proposed action but nobody was available to comment.
However, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: "To cut pension contributions in the current climate is highly irresponsible.
"This is simply storing up trouble for the next valuation and the future of the scheme."
He said the current owners of the East Midlands Trains franchise might have no responsibility for the pension fund in a few years.
He said he feared that his members could face the prospect of either cripplingly high contribution rates or reduced benefits.