Rail passengers are braced for days of travel chaos as union members begin to strike in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The action by thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 13 train operators officially begins at 7.30am today, but many services were hit from Monday night.
London Underground workers are also taking action on Tuesday, while RMT members will also strike on Thursday and Saturday. Knock-on delays and disruption are expected on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
It is thought to be the biggest outbreak of industrial action on the railways for a generation, with just one in five trains running on strike days, mainly on main lines and only for about 11 hours.
Last-ditch talks fail
Talks were held late into Monday night but the row remained deadlocked, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said Network Rail had offered a 2% pay rise with the possibility of a further 1% later, dependent on efficiency savings, but he added this came with unacceptable conditions for workers to accept job cuts and changes to working practices.
The Department for Transport disputed Mr Lynch’s claims on rail funding and job cuts, insisting the Government is not slashing £4 billion from the network, pointing instead to a significant loss in revenue as fewer people travel by rail post-pandemic.
With normal services running on so few lines, there are expected to be major disruptions for commuters, students sitting their GCSE and A-level exams, and later in the week music fans hoping to go to the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset.
Footfall is expected to drop by 9.3% across all retail destinations next week, but high streets will see 10% fewer shoppers and shopping centres will receive 13% fewer visitors, according to analysts Springboard.
Boris Johnson is set to call for a “sensible compromise” to shield rail passengers while accusing unions of “driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers”, while also hitting businesses across the country.
The Prime Minister is expected to argue ahead of a Cabinet meeting this morning that unions are “harming the very people they claim to be helping”.
On Monday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended his lack of intervention in the talks, saying the Government is “not the employer” and it is for the train operating companies, Network Rail and the unions to come to an agreement.
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