Nightmare before Christmas: Millions face travel hell as RMT announces string of 48-hour train strikes

23 November 2022, 02:11 | Updated: 23 November 2022, 02:18

RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch has announced a string of 48-hour strikes across the festive period
RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch has announced a string of 48-hour strikes across the festive period. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Millions of people face travel hell this Christmas after RMT union bosses announced a string of 48-hours strikes set to cause chaos over the festive period.

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The news means 40,000 members across Network, as well as 14 other train operating companies, will walk out on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December, as well as a second wave of strike action on 3, 4, 6 and 7 January.

The strike announcement comes in addition to major repair works already scheduled on key rail routes, with the double threat likely to result in many Christmas plans being brought to a halt.

It also follows the Aslef union's announcement that members will hold another strike on 26 November in a dispute over pay. The pre-existing strike was already scheduled to affect 12 train companies.

Network Rail had already planned engineering works from Friday December 23, until Tuesday January 3, with key routes from London stations cancelled or running reduced services.

Ministers have been urged to "get a grip" over the looming chaos as threats of coordinated walkouts with other industries continue to grow.

Government sources last night suggested a "glimmering outline" of a deal with the RMT was emerging, according to the Daily Mail.

"We need to get a deal that works for all taxpayers, and that includes the taxpayers that don't use the railways," one source said.

However, ministers are worried about setting a precedent with pay rises across different industries.

Read more: Mick Lynch: I never believed in the European Union

Read more: Train passengers hit by severe travel disruption despite RMT calling off three days of walkouts

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch announces four weeks of continuous industrial action

Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary, said the string of strikes would send "a clear message" that rail workers want a better deal on pay and working conditions.

RMT had already warned another round of industrial action was ‘highly likely’ over the Christmas period as talks over pay and job security faltered.

Today's announcement follows six-months of rail disputes over jobs cuts, as well as pay and working terms, with impending travel chaos on the cards.

It's but the latest wave of strikes set out by workers, following balloted strike action already announced by members of the civil service and nurses union.

It comes as the union said that train operator Network was scheduled to present their new written proposal on 17 November but failed to do so.

Mick Lynch claps back at journalist who called him 'Mick Grinch'

Mr Lynch had previously said: “I will be recommending that we set out further phases of sustained industrial action in support of our members.

“While we will remain available for meaningful negotiations it is now obvious that the other side is unwilling or unable to progress matters appropriately, so our action will be reinstated.”

The timing of the strikes have coincided with predictions, as the union aims to target Christmas in order to cause maximum disruption to highlight the challenges the workforce is facing.

The engineering works mean there will be no services from Liverpool Street station from December 25 to January 2, no Southern or Gatwick Express trains from Victoria station over the same dates, and a reduced timetable from Euston station to places like Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool between December 24-30.

The works will cost a total of £120m, Network Rail said.

40,000 Network workers are set to walk out throughout December and January
40,000 Network workers are set to walk out throughout December and January. Picture: Contributor: Ian Davidson / Alamy Stock Photo

Richard Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said the engineering work would mean "more reliable journeys" for passengers in future.

The works will provide vital improvements and routine maintenance for a more reliable railway in the long-term, Network Rail said. Network Rail carries out the work during holidays as fewer people usually travel by train.

"Christmas is an important time for the railway as it gives us the opportunity to get a lot of work done to improve the railway when trains aren't running, and therefore keep disruption for our passengers at a minimum,” he added.

The key disruption includes:

  • No services will start or terminate at Liverpool Street from December 25 until January 2. Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Cambridge trains will be affected.
  • Services to Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Birmingham International, Blackpool North, Scotland and Glasgow Central will run to a reduced timetable from Euston December 24-30.
  • There will be no Southern or Gatwick Express trains to or from London Victoria from December 25 to January 2. Most Southern trains will run to and from London Bridge instead, with replacement buses between Clapham Junction and East Croydon.
  • Cannon Street station will be closed on Christmas Eve (December 24) and some services will start or terminate at London Bridge.
  • Lewisham station will also be closed on Christmas Eve and there will be no trains between New Cross, St Johns and Dartford via Bexleyheath.
  • Long-distance services from Euston on the West Coast Main Line will run to a reduced timetable.

People are urged to check before they travel by visiting National Rail Enquiries or the train operator’s website.

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