UK rail passengers face fresh travel disruption this week because of strikes by tens of thousands of workers in bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators will stage two 48-hour walkouts from Tuesday and Friday, while drivers in the Aslef union plan to strike on Thursday.
Passengers, including those returning to work after the festive break, are being warned to expect “significant disruption” as a limited number of trains will run. There may also be disruption to services on Sunday, January 8th, as the striking workers return to their duties.
On RMT strike days, about half of the rail network will shut down and about 20 per cent of normal services will run.
Trains that do run will start later and finish much earlier than usual, with services typically running at 7.30am-6.30pm on the day of the strike.
The train drivers’ strike on January 5th will affect 15 operators and will result in fewer services running, with some companies operating “very significantly reduced” timetables.
The RMT also has an overtime ban in place at 14 train operating companies until Monday that will continue to affect the level of cancellations and the punctuality of some services.
Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at the Rail Delivery Group, the train operators’ umbrella body, said: “No one wants to see these strikes go ahead and we can apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.
“We would advise passengers to travel if it is absolutely necessary during this period, allow extra time and check when their first and last train will depart.
“Passengers with tickets for between 3-7 January can use their ticket the day before the ticket date, or up to and including Tuesday January 10.
“This dispute will be resolved by agreeing the long overdue reforms to working arrangements needed to put the industry on a sustainable footing, rather than unions condemning their members to losing more pay in the new year.”
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Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the union was “in it for the long haul”, adding: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place. They have not offered our members a penny, and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019.
“That means they expect train drivers at these companies to take a real-terms pay cut – to work just as hard for considerably less – when inflation is running at north of 14 per cent.
“The train companies say their hands have been tied by the government. While the government – which does not employ us – says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us. We are always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk – but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has accused the government of blocking a deal to end the long running dispute. He says he is willing to negotiate, but is calling for an offer on pay, jobs and conditions his members can vote on.
The RMT is campaigning against plans to close ticket offices, cut jobs and move the industry to widespread driver-only operation. – PA