Train bosses have advised customers to ‘only travel if absolutely essential’ as tens of thousands of workers plan a mass walkout next week as half of Britain’s rail lines are set to close
Passengers are urged not to travel by train next week as Britain’s biggest rail strike for over 30 years triggers six days of chaos.
Train bosses have advised customers to “only travel if absolutely essential” as a mass walkout by tens of thousands of workers threatens to bring the country’s rail network to a virtual standstill.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union today called a face-to-face meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Yet it came when union-busting Tory ministers were accused of ‘dereliction of duty’ for failing to meet with railway workers’ leaders for three months.
Only one in five services are expected to operate during next week’s three-day strike – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – and six lines will be completely closed.
The impact will cause disruption to many routes on the interim non-strike days – Wednesday and Friday – as well as the following Sunday.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union says more than 50,000 members of Network Rail and 13 rail operating companies will take to the picket lines in a row for lost wages and jobs.
A total of half of UK rail lines will be closed without any passenger service serving places such as Penzance in Cornwall, Bournemouth in Dorset, Swansea in South Wales, Holyhead in North Wales and Blackpool, in Lancashire. There will also be no passenger trains running north of Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Where limited services are in operation, they will mainly start around 7.30am and end at 6.30pm on strike days.
A special timetable is to be released on Friday indicating which services will operate.
London Underground staff are also due to strike on Tuesday in a separate dispute over pensions and job losses.
Network Rail says thousands of specially trained rescue workers will be responding to planned outings to keep vital services running.
But as they represent only a fraction of the usual Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: ‘The talks have not progressed as far as I had hoped and so we have to prepare for a strike unnecessary national railways and the harmful impact it will have.
“We, and our fellow train operators, are preparing to provide the best possible service for passengers and freight users next week despite the actions of the RMT.”
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes will affect the millions of people who use the train every day, including key workers, exam students, those unable to work from home, holidaymakers and those attending important business and leisure events.
Most of the 13 train companies affected said they planned to operate heavily reduced services, and none on many routes.
Northern Trains, for example, is asking customers not to travel on its services between next Tuesday and Sunday.
Hesther Ng/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)
South Western Railway said it would operate a “significantly reduced” timetable on strike days, with “significant parts” of its network closed.
But other operators have pledged to offer as many services as possible.
LNER, which operates the East Coast Mainline, said it planned to run around 38% of its regular trains on strike days, although they were likely to be “very busy”.
Great Western Railway said it aimed to run “as many trains as possible”.
They include routes from London Paddington, via Reading, to Cardiff Central, as well as to Oxford, Basingstoke, Westbury, Bristol Temple Meads and Plymouth.
Where services are running, he also warned they should be “extremely busy”.
The RMT Workers’ Union today called for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Shapps and Mr Sunak.
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In a letter to Mr Shapps, RMT general secretary Mike Lynch says the Treasury is “taking the reins” and not allowing the rail employers to reach a negotiated settlement with the union.
It came as Labor claimed the last meeting between unions and transport ministers was on March 8, when railway minister Wendy Morton discussed workforce reform work.
In a letter to Mr Shapps, Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh wrote: ‘It is frankly extraordinary that it appears you have yet to have talks on the biggest rail dispute in a generation.
“This is a dereliction of duty and an insult to the hundreds of thousands of passengers who depend on it despite the resolution.
“Instead of showing leadership, doing your job and resolving this dispute, you would rather provoke this dispute than resolve it.”
Mr Shapps replied that Mr Lynch had said ‘just a month ago that he would not meet a Tory government’.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman added: “We are not the employer here, it is up to the union to negotiate with their employees. “We cannot interfere in the negotiations between the railway companies and the unions.”
Downing Street has denied trying to use the issue to force a ‘corner’ in Labor and among swing voters after Boris Johnson asked Keir Starmer to ‘oppose Labour’s rail strikes’.
The RMT has not been affiliated with Labor for two decades.
Keir Starmer hit back at PMQs yesterday saying: ‘I don’t want the strikes to continue. He does this so that he can feed on division.
Rail lines that will be closed without passenger services
- Penzance (Cornwall)
- Bournemouth (Dorset)
- Swansea (South Wales)
- Holyhead (North Wales)
- Blackpool (Lancashire)
- There will also be no passenger trains running north of Glasgow or Edinburgh.