Strikes by rail and road staff will cause major disruptions to commuters returning to work after the Christmas holidays – fears that continued work stoppages could cause a years-long decline in train travel demand.
About 40,000 members of the RMT union from Network Rail and 14 train operators are taking industrial action today, tomorrow, Friday and Saturday – meaning most services nationwide will be down.
Train drivers will also go on a one-day strike on Thursday, meaning Britain’s rail network will be crippled during the first working week of 2023. Passengers were asked to travel only if necessary.
‘Substantial disruption’ as people return to work – latest strikes
In other developments, more than 100 traffic officers and control room operators working for National Roads in England are launching their own 48-hour strike today.
While this strike is expected to have little impact on the network, roads are expected to be busy on both days as passengers get off the train and drive to the office.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch warned that strikes on the railroads will continue until the government stops “blocking” a deal to settle the bitter dispute over wages, jobs and conditions.
The union claims that, despite their best efforts during the festive period, the railway employers did not hold any formal negotiations.
Mr. Lynch also claims that an “unprecedented level of ministerial intervention” has hindered progress and said RMT representatives were “available around the clock for talks”.
RMT strike days will see about half of the network shut down while only 20% of normal services are expected to run. These trains will also start later than usual and end much earlier, and services will only be available between 07.30 and 18.30.
According to The Times, ministers fear that millions of passengers will give up rail travel altogether as a result of the worst week of rail cuts in 30 years.
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A government source told the newspaper: “This is an act of self-harm – it will leave a generation of passengers on the railroad. We’re talking about permanent scars. The longer the strikes last, the greater the risk.”
But Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, who represents the train drivers, said workers had no choice but to strike as their wages had not been raised since April 2019 – high levels of inflation led to real wage cuts.
Emphasizing that his union is always happy to negotiate with train operators, he said, “The ball is in their hands. The companies or this Tory government that stands behind them can end this dispute now by offering a serious and reasonable wage offer. It’s up to them.”
The Department of Transport warned that passengers had “rightly enough railroad strikes” and urged unions to stop taking industrial action.
A spokesperson said: “The government has shown it is reasonable and is ready to facilitate the resolution of railway disputes. It is time for the unions to come to the table and do their part.
“Inflationary wage increases for all public sector workers will cost everyone more in the long run – worsening debt fuels inflation and costs each household an extra £1,000.”
Transport Minister Mark Harper will be interviewed live on Sky News this morning at 7:20am – followed by an interview with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch at 7:30am.