Train traffic is paralyzed by a new strike

The government is urged to take urgent steps to help resolve the bitter rail dispute as a mass strike is expected to paralyze services on Saturday.

Members of four unions will go on strike for 24 hours, causing the worst rail disruption of the year so far, as some areas of the country are out of service throughout the day.

Because of the strikes by members of the Railway, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), Aslef, Unite and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), rail passengers have been advised to travel on Saturday only if necessary.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, told the PA news agency its members were increasingly angry at the lack of progress in the dispute.

The message I’m getting from my members is that they want more industrial action, so I think more strikes are inevitable

“We don’t want to go on strike, but this dispute will continue until the government unties the railway companies.

“The message I’m getting from my members is that they want more industrial action, so I think more strikes are inevitable.”

Mr Whelan will say at a rally in Birmingham organized by campaign group Enough Is Enough: “We would much rather not be in this position. While depriving you of your workforce is a basic human right, it’s always a last resort, but the corporations, with the government’s invisible hand right behind them, seem determined to force our hand.

“They tell the train drivers to take a real pay cut. With inflation now at 12.3%, they say drivers who haven’t received a raise in three years should be willing to work just as hard, just as long, and for significantly less.

“The companies we’re fighting with haven’t offered us a penny, and we find it outrageous that they expect us to take a real pay cut for the third straight year.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has written to Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan urging her to “take urgent steps to facilitate a negotiated settlement” after the union said the latest figures showed rail bosses benefiting from government tax cuts.

Rail industry bosses could gain up to £61,000 a year from the Chancellor’s tax cuts, more than most RMT members will earn in a year and in many cases double that, the union said.

Mr Lynch, who met Ms Trevelyan last month, wrote: “As you know, I described the meeting as ‘positive’ when we met, but the only public statement since has been that of the Chancellor during his tax event, in which he stated he will bring forward legislation to abolish rail workers’ right to strike.

“Despite our positive discussion, the Chancellor’s intervention made it difficult to resolve an already difficult dispute.

“I am also concerned that the government has recently taken measures to line the pockets of the ‘railway rich’ while railway workers continue to face wage freezes and real wage cuts.

“The privatized railroad industry is largely dependent on taxpayer subsidies, and the government is using these to support the railroad wealthy in a variety of ways, including:

“The highest-paid directors of a number of railway companies receive annual pay rises of between 15% and 273%, much of it on the basis of government-funded financial results.

“Railway bosses can win up to £61,000 a year from the Chancellor’s tax gift to the better off. These people will get more from your government’s tax cut than most of my members will make in a year, and in many cases twice as much.”

Another strike by Aslef will take place on Wednesday, while RMT members will drop out in Scotland on October 8 and again on October 10.

A reduced timetable has been released showing only 11% of rail services operate on Saturdays, with some areas having no trains.

Trains will start later in the morning and finish earlier in the evening, and much of the network will have no trains at all.

Despite our efforts to find compromises and a breakthrough in talks, the rail unions remain determined to continue and coordinate their strike action

Among those affected will be delegates traveling to the Conservative Party Conference this weekend.

Those who need to travel – including those wishing to attend or see the London Marathon – have been advised to plan ahead and check when their last train leaves.

Passengers have also been warned that there will likely be disruption in the early morning of Sunday October 2 when workers return.

Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said: “Despite our efforts to find compromises and a breakthrough in talks, rail unions remain keen to continue and coordinate their strike action.

“This is only to ensure our employees are unnecessarily forgoing even more pay, causing even more disruption to our passengers and further hampering the railroad’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Passengers wishing to travel this Saturday and even next Wednesday and next Saturday are asked not to do so unless absolutely necessary. If you have to travel, expect disruptions and make sure when your last train leaves.”

Daniel Mann, Director of Industry Operations at Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes are unnecessary and harmful. They disrupt passenger plans, undermine struggling businesses, hit major events and hurt industry recovery.

“It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have been training for months to take part in the iconic London Marathon.

“It will also penalize the many charities large and small that rely on sponsorship funds raised through events like this to support those most vulnerable in our community.

“Although we have done everything we can to keep some services running, passengers should only travel by train in an absolute emergency.”

Transport for London said its services will also be affected by the strikes, with no service expected on London Overground on Saturday and next Wednesday.

Runners and spectators trying to get to the capital in time for the 9.30am start of the marathon in Greenwich on Sunday have been warned they are likely to be frustrated by the strike.

Trains traveling a reasonable distance into central London will not arrive until 9am.

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