Train strikes continue after last-ditch talks collapse

Passengers disembark from a train next to which an information board warns of strikes

Maybe you should reconsider that long-distance train ride tomorrow (Picture: Getty)

The biggest rail strikes in 30 years will take place this week after last-ditch talks failed to avert them.

A mass strike affecting train services across the UK will start tomorrow and also take place on Thursday and Saturday – but trains are expected to be disrupted throughout the week as special timetables arrive from tonight.

The dispute is about wages, jobs and working conditions, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) announced this afternoon.

The Glastonbury Festival is among the events this week that are likely to be affected.

Whole lines will be closed from tomorrow Network Rail employees are joined by workers from 13 different operators in a mass strike.

Only every fifth train runs on strike days, mainly on main routes and only for around 11 hours.

London Underground workers will also go on strike tomorrow.

According to RMT, the train operators have now made an offer and there is no further offer from Network Rail after one that was rejected last Friday.

Secretary-General Mick Lynch said: “The RMT National Executive Committee has now determined that both proposals are unacceptable and it has now been confirmed that strike action planned for this week will go ahead.

“It is clear that the Tory Government, having cut £4 billion in funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented this dispute from being settled.

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A map of the UK showing where routes will still run during the strikes

Highlighted lines will remain open with reduced service on 21, 23 and 25 June (Image: Network Rail/
This is what London rail service will look like during the strikes (Image: Network Rail/

“In addition to the fee freezes of recent years, the railways have now proposed tariffs that are massively below the relevant inflation rates.

“Companies are also trying to shed thousands of jobs at the behest of the government and have failed to provide a guarantee against redundancies.”

Mr Lynch added: “Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts in jobs, working conditions, wages and pensions, RMT has no choice but to industrially defend our members to stop this race to the bottom.

“The strikes on Network Rail, rail operators and the London Underground continue and we once again call on our members to stand firm, support the action, picket lines and demonstrate their willingness to fight for justice at work .

‘The RMT supports the campaign for a fair solution for all working people in the face of the cost-of-living crisis and our current campaign is part of that broader campaign which means that public services must be properly funded workers are fairly paid with good conditions.’

The TUC and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) have called on the government to abandon its “unworkable” plan to lift the ban on agency workers filling in during strikes.

A joint statement from the TUC and REC said the plan was “unworkable” and they “strongly opposed” it.

Dismayed by the strikes, many people who have had to travel this week said it would cause disruption – and many workers have been told to stay at home rather than commute.

A cricket fan who is due to travel to Leeds for the England test match against New Zealand said: ‘I understand why the strikes are taking place but can’t help but be frustrated at the impact they are having on ordinary people, especially when we are are in the midst of a livelihood crisis”.

Beth West, a 29-year-old worker from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, said she was forced to book a hotel to make the trip.

“I had booked tickets for the whole weekend of cricket in Leeds. I live 20 minutes away but due to the lack of car park/park & ​​ride/buses not safe for women at night I had to spend over £400 on a hotel for the weekend.

“If trains ran, the cost would be less than a tenner, and it would consist of two trains that would take about 40 minutes.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps previously denied he was “the problem” over rail strikes.

He told Sky News: “The actual unions need to sit down with employers as this is a highly technical discussion about 20 different areas of modernization needed on the railway to ensure the railways can continue to function.

“We’ve given £16billion in taxpayers’ money through coronavirus to ensure none of these railway workers lose their jobs.

“So they have to work on it together between the union and the employers.”

Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said: “Until it begins, no strike is inevitable but unfortunately disruption is guaranteed tomorrow so we are asking passengers to plan ahead and only travel by train if necessary.

“We continue to speak to the RMT and urge them to work with us to find a solution that works for rail workers and taxpayers and avoids further disruption to our passengers.”

Downing Street said it was “deeply disappointing” that the strikes are taking place and argued they would not solve problems with the railways.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is deeply disappointing that these disruptive, these self-destructive strikes are going to take place this week.

“Strikeing does nothing to address the long-standing issues we need to solve to ensure our railroad, which is available to the public and valuable, is operational over the long term.”

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Justin Scacco

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