Rail strike threatens to disrupt travel to Highland Show

Thousands of farmers travelling to and from the Royal Highland Show (RHS) could see their travel plans disrupted if a major rail strike goes ahead.

Rail union RMT is planning three days of national strike action across the railway network on 21, 23 and 25 June in “the biggest dispute on the network since 1989”.

On 21 June, more than 50,000 railworkers plan to walk out across Network Rail, 13 train operators, including Northern Trains, and the London Underground.

See also: Read all past articles about the Royal Highland Show

The RMT says railworkers have been subjected to pay freezes and plans to cut thousands of jobs “which will make the railways unsafe”.

The second and third days of the planned strike action (23 and 25 June) coincide with the first and third days of the RHS, which will attract up to 200,000 visitors to the Ingliston showground, Edinburgh, over four days.

ScotRail has confirmed that if the strike goes ahead, it will include Network Rail staff in Scotland, and the effect “is expected to be significant, with a limited service operating, if at all”.

The RHS is the biggest showcase of Scotland’s finest livestock, produce, machinery and rural life – and this year it will celebrate its 200th anniversary.

Many farmers in Yorkshire and Cumbria have traditionally travelled to the show by rail, but any strike would force them to revert to coaches or cars, which has the potential to create congestion on roads around the Ingliston showground.

Plenty of parking on site

Alan Laidlaw, chief executive of the Royal Highland Agricultural Show Society, which organises the show, said the effect of any rail strike was expected to be low.

“Less than 1,500 of the 200,000 people who attended the 2019 show travelled there by train. Unlike many other major event venues, the Royal Highland Centre has significant car parking capacity on site, so those who wish to drive can do so. 

“The showground also has excellent air travel connections, being walking distance from Edinburgh Airport, for those coming from further afield. We do, however, encourage people to book their parking space well in advance and be prepared.”

Tickets are still available for all four days, but were likely to sell out in the near future. Therefore, Mr Laidlaw encouraged visitors to plan now to avoid disappointment.

“We know that visitors have been looking forward to attending the special bicentenary show, the first show since 2019, and we will do everything we possibly can to ensure people can still get there, including publishing detailed information about our public transport plan and car park booking on our website.”