UK rail strikes add more travel chaos to troubled summer

Union boss says industrial action will go on 'indefinitely' as rail companies advise public not to travel

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Britain's railways were hit by further strikes on Thursday, adding to travel woes for passengers during the busy summer period.

The strikes herald the start of a weekend of major transport disruption which will affect workers, holidaymakers and fans going to events, including a cricket Test match at Lords, in London.

Union leaders say industrial action will go on “indefinitely”, in a long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Earlier strike action took place in July.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, Transport Salaried Staffs Association and Unite are taking industrial action, after talks failed to break the deadlock.

Just one in five trains will operate on Thursday, as rail companies advised passengers not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

Further strike action will also affect operations on the London Underground and bus networks on Friday and Saturday.

Union bosses are angry with below-inflation pay offers as the UK grapples with a cost-of-living crisis. Inflation rose to 10.1 per cent in July.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, has said that the strikes will go on 'indefinitely', as he appeared on the picket lines outside Euston station in London.

He called on the Conservative Party government to end its stance of refusing to get involved in talks over pay, jobs and conditions. Ministers say the unions should negotiate with the private rail companies.

Mr Lynch said the union had calculated that, including the previous and forthcoming industrial action, more than £120 million ($144.5m) of taxpayers’ money had been used to “bail out” private train companies to date.

He told the PA news agency: “Using taxpayers’ money to satisfy the anti-union agenda of the Tory Party and seek to break the trade unions is shameful and means the dispute will be prolonged indefinitely as the train companies don’t lose a penny as a result of the industrial action and therefore have no incentive to settle the disputes.

“Instead of waging an ideological war against rail workers, millions of voters would rather that the government allow for a fair negotiated settlement.”

Pictures showed major rail hubs across the country almost completely empty as commuters were forced to find another mode of transport to get to work.

The Department for Transport said union leaders were opting to 'inflict misery' on millions of passengers.

“It’s clear strikes are not the powerful tool they once were and union chiefs are no longer able to bring the country to a standstill as, unlike them, the world has changed and people simply work from home,” officials said.

“All these strikes are doing is hurting those people the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be out of pocket and forced to miss a day’s work.”

On Friday, members of the RMT and Unite on London Underground will walk out, as well as Unite members on London United bus routes in the capital in a separate dispute over pay.

This will have a knock-on effect on rail services on Friday morning.

On Saturday, RMT members, TSSA members and Unite members as will strike again, along with London bus drivers.

Sunday morning train services will be affected by the knock-on effect of Saturday’s action.

Rail services on Thursday and Saturday will be drastically reduced, with only around a fifth running and half of lines closed.

Trains will only operate between 7.30am and 6.30pm on both strike days.

Picket lines will be mounted outside railway stations across the country.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 10:28 AM