Britain faces its largest rail strike in decades on Saturday as tens of thousands of workers stage a walkout and shut down most of the network.
Unions have called for strikes in the past year in a dispute over under-inflation pay rises. However, Saturday's walk out is set to be the biggest yet and will cause widespread disruption for travellers, particularly before the London Marathon, which is set to be held on Sunday.
The strike action will interfere with travel to the governing Conservative Party's annual conference in Birmingham, scheduled to begin on Sunday, with no trains running in or out of the central English city on Saturday.
A total of more than 50,000 rail workers represented by the RMT, Aslef and TSSA unions are walking out on Saturday for 24 hours in a strike that will affect 14 train operators as well as Network Rail, which owns and maintains train infrastructure.
It has said about 11 per cent of train services will operate on Saturday, and in some parts of the country there will be no trains at all.
With inflation hovering around 40-year highs of nearly 10 per cent, labour unions say pay offers for workers amount to a cut in real terms.
“We've not got offers from any of the companies that will break this deadlock,” Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, told broadcaster ITV on Friday.
“All of these companies are extracting profit from the railway right now, massive profits, but they're asking our members to give up their wages and give up their jobs.”
Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller described the strikes as a “huge own goal” that would result in “less money to spend improving the railway”.
The RMT met the government's new Transport Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan last week, with Mr Lynch calling talks “encouraging”.
The industrial action on the railways coincides with walkouts by 115,000 postal workers over two days and dozens of protests nationwide in support of striking workers organised by a campaign called Enough is Enough, that has the backing of several unions and opposition Labour Party MPs.
It follows similar rail strikes over several days in June, July and August, with further action planned on October 5 and 8.
Organisers for the London Marathon, taking place on Sunday, advised people going to the British capital for the event to travel on Friday where possible.