Millions of commuters are facing a third day of travel across Britain today, with just 20% of trains running and rush hour traffic building as Mick Lynch’s hardline RMT stages the second of its three mass strikes.
Rail chiefs have accused union barons of holding the country to ‘ransom’ after talks between the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union and Network Rail collapsed in acrimony yesterday.
Today’s mass walkout condemns millions of workers, patients and students to misery, undermines Boris Johnson’s WFH drive and inflicts another devastating blow to the UK’s wobbly economy – with experts warning that the strike action could clobber Britain’s beleaguered hospitality sector by £500million this week alone.
Britons are now being warned to brace for potential strikes in two weeks after Lynch – a socialist firebrand who has modelled himself on Thatcher’s arch-rival Arthur Scargill – threatened to ‘continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement’. The RMT’s National Executive Committee can announce further strike dates with just two weeks’ notice. Network Rail is expecting a decision on new strike dates to be made as early as next week. Whitehall and railway officials fear the next wave could begin on July 9.
Commuters will now have to choose whether to battle into the office by bus, car or bike, or WFH again as Lynch’s actions drive people out of town and city centres, effectively plunging the UK into ‘another lockdown’. Industry bosses fear that the strikes could push thousands of businesses in hospitality – already crippled by two years of Covid restrictions – over the edge.
Rail lines will only be open between 7.30am and 6.30pm today, with trains mostly restricted to main lines, with around half of the network closed. Northern Rail says it will only operate 10% of services and some places will again have no trains at all. Londoners will be able to get around the capital via Tube today, though there is likely to be disruption.
It comes as ministers plot to rush forward new anti-strike laws today amid growing fears that teachers, NHS staff and civil servants could also go on strike in the coming weeks and paralyse Britain.
Kings Cross Station was pictured deserted this morning as millions of commuters face a third day of chaos across Britain today
Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich in South East London were gridlocked this morning
Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich in South East London showed huge queues as commuters battle to get into work
Empty platforms were pictured at a deserted Liverpool Street Station in the capital – normally filled with thousands of commuters
RMT workers are pictured outside Manchester train station with speakerphones and pickets on the table as they prepare for the second day of strike action
Heavy traffic queues are pictured on Thursday morning on the A40 at Perivale in West London as commuters battle to get into work
As the second day of rail strikes gets underway, heavy traffic is pictured on all three lanes on the A40 at Perivale in West London
Members of the public queue for a bus near Marble Arch in London, as train services continue to be disrupted following the nationwide strike by members of the RMT union along with London Underground workers
Trains waiting in sidings near Peterborough station on the second day of the nationwide rail strike today
Freight trains stationery beside the East Coast main lines in Peterborough on the second day of the nationwide rail strike, which has been called by the RMT union
The RMT accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of ‘wrecking’ negotiations.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.
‘Until the Government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.
‘We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.’
Mr Shapps hit back, saying the RMT claim was a ‘lie’.
Meanwhile, members of the drivers’ union Aslef on Greater Anglia will strike on Thursday in a separate dispute over pay.
The company, which is also affected by the RMT strike, advised passengers to travel only if it was necessary.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail had accepted a 7.1% pay offer.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘What this clearly shows is our union, and sister unions, are in no way a block on finding the solutions needed to avoid a summer of discontent on the railways.
‘Rather, it is the Government who are intent on digging in their heels. Grant Shapps would be wise to start talking seriously to our union as we ballot for industrial action on our railways up and down the land.’
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson: ‘With passenger numbers still at only 80% of pre-pandemic levels the industry remains committed to giving a fair deal on pay while taking no more than its fair share from taxpayers.
‘We can only achieve that by making improvements – like offering better services on a Sunday – that reflect the changing needs of passengers so we can attract more back.
‘We call on the RMT leadership to continue to talk so that we can secure a thriving long-term future for the railway and its workforce.
‘Our advice to passengers remains the same, only travel by rail if absolutely necessary, check before you travel and make sure you know the time of your first and last trains.’
A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations without agreeing a deal. We remain available for talks – day or night – and will do everything we can to avoid further disruption for our passengers.
‘As a result of this needless and premature strike, rail services will look much like they did on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and finishing much earlier in the evening (around 6.30pm).
‘We are asking passengers to please check before you travel, be conscious of when your last available train is departing, and only travel by train if necessary.’