Back to work hit by strikes: Commuters face days of travel chaos with fresh walkouts on Tuesday

2 January 2023, 17:52 | Updated: 2 January 2023, 23:06

Commuters face a week of disruption, with the latest wave of industrial action on the railways set to cause days of chaos.
Commuters face a week of disruption, with the latest wave of industrial action on the railways set to cause days of chaos. Picture: Getty / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

Commuters face a week of disruption, with the latest wave of industrial action on the railways set to cause days of chaos.

RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will stage two 48-hour walkouts starting tomorrow and then Friday, while train drivers in the Aslef will strike on Thursday.

Passengers have been advised only to travel if it's absolutely necessary.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union, said he believed an agreement could be reached but there had been “radio silence” from the Government since mid-December.

He said: “We’ve outlined what we need to make progress; these are experienced people we’re dealing with, but the government simply will not give a mandate to the employers, Network Rail and the train operators that will allow this deal to be resolved.

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“They’re sitting on their hands and are noted by their absence from this scene. They keep saying that they’re facilitating a deal. And I think it’s absolutely the opposite to that.”

Mr Lynch added: “The executives who run the industry day on day are in despair at what the government is making them say in these talks.”

General Secretary Mick Lynch joins the picket line outside Euston Station as fresh rail strikes hit the UK, December 13.
General Secretary Mick Lynch joins the picket line outside Euston Station as fresh rail strikes hit the UK, December 13. Picture: Getty

Mr Lynch said policy was causing the problems seen on the railway. He said: “They’ve given us a structure that simply doesn’t work: abandoned franchising, they’ve abandoned their latest Greater British Rail [sic]… they stumble from one day to another and all they want to do is bash the unions.”

The union boss said that pay was just part of the dispute: “This is about the way our members are deployed, their work-life balance – if we don’t defend those conditions we will end up like all the gig economy workers, all the low-paid and vulnerable people in our society.”

West Midlands Railway trains parked up and unused during the second day of Britain's national rail strike, June 22, 2022.
West Midlands Railway trains parked up and unused during the second day of Britain's national rail strike, June 22, 2022. Picture: Alamy

The Department for Transport rejected claims it hasn't been in contact with the RMT in recent weeks, but accepted there had not been a formal meeting with ministers since mid-December.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Passengers have rightly had enough of rail strikes and want the disruption to end.

“The government has demonstrated it is being reasonable and stands ready to facilitate a resolution to rail disputes. It’s time the unions came to the table and played their part as well.

File photo dated 19/2/2022 of the departures board Victoria station, London, displaying cancelled and delayed trains.
File photo dated 19/2/2022 of the departures board Victoria station, London, displaying cancelled and delayed trains. Picture: Alamy

“Inflation-matching pay increases for all public sector workers would cost everyone more in the long term – worsening debt, fuelling inflation, and costing every household an extra £1,000.

“Unions should step back from this strike action so we can start 2023 by ending this damaging dispute.”

Passengers have been warned they face significant disruption over the rest of this week, with only around 20 per cent of national rail services expected to to be operating on RMT strike days, typically between 7.30am to 6.30pm.

Network Rail has advised that people check online to get updates on when trains will run.

An information board at Billingshurst railway station in West Sussex advises that due to strike action no trains are running, August 18, 2022.
An information board at Billingshurst railway station in West Sussex advises that due to strike action no trains are running, August 18, 2022. Picture: Alamy

The strike by Aslef members on Thursday result in fewer trains running, with no services across most of the 15 operators where drivers are striking.

Daniel Mann, the director of industry operations at the Rail Delivery Group, said: “No one wants to see these strikes go ahead and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.

“This dispute will only 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.”

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan told the PA news agency that the union is “in it for the long haul” as it seeks pay inceases for members.

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