Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators are staging their second strike of the week today after no deal on pay and conditions was reached in tense talks earlier in the week.
Only around one in five trains will run and mainly on main lines during the day, making travel onerous for many passengers across the UK. Network Rail has said that rail services today will “look much like they did on Tuesday”, starting later in the morning and ending early in the evening, around 6.30pm. Passengers have been asked to “only travel by train if necessary”.
Members of the drivers’ union Aslef on Greater Anglia trains will strike on Thursday in a separate dispute over pay. The company, which is also affected by the RMT strike, advised passengers to travel only if it was necessary.
Meanwhile, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has announced that its members at Merseyrail have accepted a 7.1% pay offer.
I’ll be keeping you updated today with all the key events in the UK strikes. Please do get in touch at [email protected] if you’ve spotted anything we’ve missed.
Crowds of holidaymakers are fretting about missing their flights as train delays have left them stuck at London’s Liverpool Street station, PA reports.
The Stansted Express normally leaves twice an hour from Britain’s third-busiest station, but strike action has reduced this down to one.
One man, who was returning to Sofia in Bulgaria after three days in London, complained that the experience was “stressful”.
Asked how much longer he expected to wait, the man – who had been stranded at the station for half an hour – said: “I don’t know, I’m just looking at the board, I hope not too long.”
Guardian reporter Matthew Weaver has the full story on the pay deal for Merseyrail staff:
Rail union leaders have hailed a 7.1% pay deal for Merseyrail staffwhich was struck without government involvement, as evidence that it is ministers who are blocking a deal in the national dispute.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail have accepted the 7.1% pay offer. The RMT, which was also involved in the Merseyrail negotiations said it plans to put the offer to its members.
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said the deal was an example of what can be achieved when ministers are not involved.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast he said: “The importance of that is the DFT (Department for Transport) and the Treasury are not pulling the strings in that negotiation.”
He added: “That’s also the situation in other companies such as Transport for Wales, which is outside the DFTs control and Scotrail where we’re going to get proposals on pay which are far superior to what [the transport secretary] Grant Shapps will allow to happen.”
“Where Grant Shapps has no influence on this railway we are getting deals and getting offers that are likely to be more progressive than the ones we’re getting from Westminster.”
Lynch added: “We need a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and when we get that we can move on positively to the other agenda items, which includes
changes to working practices, and the adoption of new technology.”
“It is the government in the form of Grant Shapps and the Treasury that are stopping those ideas coming forward. If we were dealing with the companies of their own volition … I think we would have had a deal on these issues quite a long time ago.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Eddie Dempsey, assistant general secretary of the RMT, said: “Wherever we’re dealing with somebody who’s not directly controlled by the DFT, we’re making progress: London Underground 8.5%; Docklands Light Railway we’ve got an inflation busting deal; Crossrail, same thing, Transport for Wales we’re in the business of negotiating something there now. Merseyrail 7.1%.”
But Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, suggested it would be too expensive to offer a 7.1% pay increase to settle the national dispute.
Speaking to the Today programme ahead of further talks today, Shoveller said: “We currently have an offer that totals 3% on the table and we’re keen to improve on that. But that’s subject to affordability.
“The difference between the 3% on the table now and a 7.1% is £65m every year just for the groups that are on strike today.”
PA reports that Labour MP for Birkenhead Mick Whitley has joined RMT members on a picket line outside Liverpool Lime Street station.
I think every Labour MP should come out. Let’s have it right, the Labour party was born out of the trade union movement and they are our political voice in parliament so every Labour MP should be out.
He said a pay deal reached with Merseyrail reinforced the argument that the government was “manufacturing the dispute”.
We don’t want to mess up people’s travel arrangements but if you’re pushed into a corner you have got to do something.
PA reported that just four trains were scheduled to depart from Liverpool Lime Street’s usually busy terminal between 8.30am and 10am, two to London Euston and two to Alderley Edge in Cheshire, via Manchester.
Here are some members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union pictured striking outside Newcastle station this morning.
Steve Montgomery, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, has told BBC Breakfast rail workers are not being given a guarantee that reforms will not lead to compulsory redundancies because the picture is too uncertain.
What we don’t understand until we start the reform process and we agree the key principles … is how far the reform will be allowed to go.
If we put voluntary severance out to people, how many people will take that voluntary severance? How many people can we retrain and put on to other jobs?
We believe that once we work through with the reform, that we can hopefully accommodate everybody who wants to stay within the organisation.
So, we just need to get through the processes and see how many people are left, and hopefully nobody requires to be made compulsory redundant.
Senior network planner Frank Bird, speaking from National Highways’ West Midlands regional operations centre, has told PA that he is pleased drivers have paid attention to motorway gantry signs advising disruption for more than a week, noting that the shift to working from home during the pandemic has most likely helped.
I’d like to thank people for taking and heeding our advice.
At the moment, the look and feel of the network is that traffic numbers are down.
If you’re going in and out of town and city centres, they’re a little bit busier. People are struggling to find (and) driving around, to find parking spaces.
On Tuesday the whole of the network was 1% quieter – on some parts of the network even more than that.
So, people have heeded the advice (and) have changed their travel planning for the week.
If you’d asked me this question a couple of years ago – what would be the impact – I’d have said it would have been quite impactive.
But two years on (from the Covid pandemic) we’ve learned to work in different ways, people are working from home, so it’s a very different picture. People are still able to carry on working even though the rail dispute is ongoing.
Bird also said that Thursday evening peak traffic is “the heaviest” of the week, but noted he is “cautiously optimistic” as if people aren’t going out in the morning they won’t be taking the afternoon journey.
The Today programme this morning has spoken to some key players involved in the negotiations between the RMT and National Rail to get their perspectives on why talks have broken down again.
Tim Shoveller, regional managing director for Network Rail and lead negotiator, said:
We currently have an offer that totals 3% on the table and we’re keen to improve on that. That’s subject to affordability. The difference between 3% on the table now and the 7.1% deal is £65m every year.
Eddy Dempsey, assistant general secretary of the RMT, said:
What we can’t understand is how people from the industry can go onto the media and say we have no intention of making people compulsorily redundant but issue us a letter starting the legal process for consultation on redundancy and refuse to give us a no compulsory redundancy guarantee, which is the number one demand we have in this dispute.
Good Morning Britain’s Nitya Gracianna Rajan has tweeted that Newport’s main transport hub saw a rise in passenger numbers on Tuesday compared with the previous week, and is putting on more double decker buses along regional commuter routes as a result.