Furious commuter blocks packed bus as week of rail strike havoc begins

21 June 2022, 14:42 | Updated: 21 June 2022, 20:46

British commuters have been infuriated at the effect of the rail strikes
British commuters have been infuriated at the effect of the rail strikes. Picture: Getty/Twitter

By Will Taylor

Furious commuters tried to take matters into their own hands as the biggest rail strike in decades wreaked havoc across Britain - with more on the way this week.

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With as many as four in five train services off due to the RMT union's industrial action, public transport users had to find others ways to get around on Tuesday.

London also endured strikes on the Tube, crowding out buses as workers tried to get to the office. Across Britain, trips could extended to hours beyond their normal length while traffic jams grew for those who switched to cars.

The rail network was expected to shut by 6.30pm, with stations like London Euston running its last service to Glasgow at 1.30pm, and King's Cross sending out its final trip to Edinburgh at 2pm - much earlier than usual.

Video on Twitter shows a furious commuter stand in front of a bus that did not pick up passengers at his stop as it was already full with people.

And this is set to be just the start of a week of pain for commuters that rely on the rail to get to work, see friends and family or to meet appointments.

More strikes on the UK's rail network will take place on Thursday and Saturday, and knock-on disruption caused by absent staff on those days threaten to throw the days without industrial action into turmoil too.

Just 60% of trains are set to run on Wednesday due to striking night shift rail workers set to cause delays.

The strikes clash with the start of the Glastonbury music festival, launching on Wednesday, while Elton John and the Rolling Stones are due to play in London's Hyde Park on June 24 and June 25, respectively.

England will take on New Zealand in a cricket test match in Leeds between June 23 and 27, and the British Athletic Championships will be held in Manchester between June 24 and 26.

The final GCSE exams are also taking place up to June 28.

Twitter user David posted the footage of the man standing firm in the road, blocking its way and shouting at the driver as he hopes the doors will open to let him on.

Read more: Furious commuters stranded and stations deserted as 'militant' RMT holds crippling strike

"Since 6:30am waiting for a bus but the buses still passing without stopping," David wrote.

"And my patients and coworkers still waiting for me because of the #RailStrikes.

"And we are not allowed to strike. And my salary is totally worse than the ones that are striking. The country needs a change."

Read more: PM warns commuters must 'stay the course' despite 'unnecessary aggravation' of strikes

He then followed up with: "Just a clarification because some comments, I never said that I'm angry because the rail workers are striking or that they don't have the right to do it because they totally have it.

"Just saying that this is a mess and we need a change. I'm not blaming anyone in my tweet."

Streams of desperate commuters rushed for last train out of London Victoria to Brighton on Tuesday afternoon.

Mick Lynch believes strikes are necessary because rail workers have not been offered acceptable pay
Mick Lynch believes strikes are necessary because rail workers have not been offered acceptable pay. Picture: Getty

Frustration at the strikes extended to confused holidaymakers struggling to understand why they could not access public transport.

Israeli tourists Eliya Lavi, 18, and Oriel Lavi, 21, arrived at London Bridge underground with suitcases to find it closed, having spent an hour trying to figure out where they needed to go to get to their hotel in north London.

Eliya Lavi said: "We just came from Gatwick and from Tel Aviv to take our first holiday in London.

"We want to get an Oyster card to get us to the hotel but the underground is closed. It sucks. We have been here for an hour to try and find out but they (the station staff) just tell us to 'go here' or 'go there'."

Mr Lavi said: "It was out first time here and we have been excited to come but this has not been good."

Read more: Rail strike called under 'false pretences' by RMT's '1970s union baron' boss, says Shapps

He added that "the welcome has been good and some people have tried to help".

The strikes inevitably caused spillover disruption on Britain's roads.

TomTom said congestion was higher at 11am than at the same time last week in a number of areas, including London (from 38% to 51%), Cardiff (24% to 29%) and Liverpool (24% to 30%).

Roads have been packed after rail strikes got under way
Roads have been packed after rail strikes got under way. Picture: Getty
Stations like Glasgow Central have been virtually abandoned during Tuesday's strikes
Stations like Glasgow Central have been virtually abandoned during Tuesday's strikes. Picture: Getty

The figures show the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.

Long queues were seen on the outer London parts of the M1, M4, A4 and A40.

Around 40,000 RMT union members who work at Network Rail and 13 train operators are striking over pay, jobs and conditions.

RMT general-secretary Mick Lynch said: "Today's turnout at picket lines has been fantastic and exceeded expectations in our struggle for job security, defending conditions and a decent pay rise.

"Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in the pursuit of a settlement to this dispute.

"RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and Government policy.

"Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win."

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday the strike is causing "significant disruption and inconvenience up and down the country" and called on the "union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies" to thrash out reforms.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "These are desperately needed reforms that modernise the railway and put it on a sustainable footing for passengers and taxpayers.

"Unions have shut down big parts of the rail network, hitting local businesses and unfairly cutting people off from hospitals, schools and work.

"However, early data shows that unlike in the past many people now have the opportunity to work from home, so we haven't seen a rush to the roads, as traffic has instead gone online, which means the unions aren't having the overall impact they might have hoped."