British rail passengers are experiencing more disruption as tens of thousands of workers strike again in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) and Unite walked out for 24 hours on Saturday, affecting Network Rail and other train companies across the country.
RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators, TSSA members at seven companies, and Unite members at NR are striking, along with London United bus drivers.
Sunday morning train services will also be disrupted, because of the knock-on effects of the action.
Only about one in five trains are expected to run on Saturday, with some areas having no services all day, as the unions stage their second stoppage in three days.
Football and cricket fans, tourists and holidaymakers are among those affected by the disruption.
The sides are as far apart as ever in resolving the row despite months of talks aimed at breaking the deadlock, with increasing union anger at the refusal of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to get involved in negotiations.
The strike follows a walkout on Friday by London Underground workers and some bus drivers in the capital in separate disputes, which caused travel chaos.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch rejected suggestions that rail workers would agree to the current offer on the table if the union put it to a vote.
Asked on BBC Breakfast on Saturday whether he had evidence to the contrary, Mr Lynch said: “Absolutely, I did a meeting on Wednesday evening the night before the strike of 14,000 RMT members in an online rally and our members are out today demonstrating.
“I speak to thousands of our members every week, we consult at least 600 Network Rail representatives on a weekly basis, and we know exactly what the mood of our members is.”
TSSA members taking action include staff working in ticket offices, stations, control rooms, engineering, as well as planning, timetabling and other support roles.
The union is seeking guarantees of no compulsory redundancies, a pay rise in line with the cost of living, and promises of no unilateral alterations to job terms and conditions.
Mr Shapps said that unions are "hellbent on causing as much misery as possible" for British workers.
The rail unions reacted furiously to a warning by the transport secretary that the changes employers are seeking, which are at the heart of the current train strikes, could be imposed.
Mr Shapps said he would have to enact legislation referred to as a “Section 188” to force through some of the measures.
He told Sky News on Friday: “What I do know and I can say for sure is if we can’t get this settled in the way that we are proposing, which is, ‘Please put the deal to your membership’, then we will have to move to what is called a section 188; it is a process of actually requiring these changes to go into place so it becomes mandated.
“That is the direction that this is moving in now.”
The TSSA accused the transport secretary of “advocating fire and rehire” tactics.
The union said section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act is a duty requiring employers to consult trade union representatives, but is not a mechanism for imposing unilateral change.
Such notice for compulsory redundancies has already been issued by Network Rail with its proposal to cut up to 1,900 jobs from the industry, said the TSSA, adding it is not “reform” but “cuts”.