The biggest rail strikes in 30 years are set to go ahead this week after last ditch talks failed to avert them.
A mass walk-out affecting train services across the UK will start tomorrow and also go ahead on Thursday and Saturday – but trains are expected to be disrupted for the whole week, however, with special timetables coming in from this evening.
The dispute is over pay, jobs and conditions, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said this afternoon.
Glastonbury Festival is among the events this week likely to be impacted.
Entire lines will be closed tomorrow when Network Rail staff are joined by workers from 13 different operators in a mass walkout.
Just one in five trains will be running on strike days, primarily on main lines and only for around 11 hours.
London Underground workers will also be on strike tomorrow.
The RMT said the train operators have now made an offer and there is no further offer from Network Rail following one which was rejected last Friday.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The RMT National Executive Committee has now found both sets of proposals to be unacceptable and it is now confirmed that the strike action scheduled this week will go ahead.
‘It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.
‘The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.
‘At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.’
Mr Lynch added: ‘Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, RMT has no choice but to defend our members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.
‘The strikes on Network Rail, the train operators and London Underground will go ahead, and we again call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness to fight for workplace justice.
‘The RMT supports the campaign for a square deal for all working people in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, and our current campaign is a part of that more general campaign which means that public services have to be properly funded and all workers properly paid with good conditions.’
The TUC and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) 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 opposed it in the ‘strongest possible terms’.
Many people due to travel this week were dismayed at the strikes saying it would cause them disruption – and many workers have been told to stay at home rather than commute.
A cricket fan due to travel to Leeds for England’s Test match against New Zealand said: ‘I get why the strikes are on but can’t help but feel frustrated at the effect it’s having on normal people, especially when we’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis’.
Beth West, a 29-year-old support worker from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, said she had been forced to book a hotel in order to make the trip.
‘I had tickets booked for the cricket for the whole weekend in Leeds. I live 20 minutes away but because of the lack of parking/park & ride/buses not being safe for women on a night-time, I have had to spend over £400 on a hotel for the weekend.
‘If trains were running, the cost would be less than a tenner, and it would consist of two trains which would take about 40 minutes.’
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier denied that he was ‘the problem’ in relation to rail strikes.
He told Sky News: ‘The actual unions need to sit down with the employers because this is a highly technical discussion around 20 different areas of modernisation that are required on the railway, to make sure the railways can continue to function.
‘We’ve given £16 billion of taxpayers’ money through coronavirus to make sure that none of those railway employees lost their jobs.
‘So they need to work on this together between the union and the employers.’
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: ‘No strike is inevitable until the moment it begins, but sadly disruption tomorrow is guaranteed so we’re asking passengers to plan ahead and only travel by train if necessary.
‘We continue to talk to the RMT and urge them to work with us to find a solution that works for rail workers and taxpayers, and avoids causing further disruption for our passengers.’
Downing Street said it was ‘deeply disappointing’ that the strikes are going ahead, arguing that they will not resolve the issues faced on the railways.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘This is deeply disappointing, that these disruptive, these self-defeating strikes will take place this week.
‘Striking does nothing to address the long-standing issues that we need to sort to make sure our railway, that the public use and treasure, is fit for the long term.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.