Travel chaos after government accused of ‘wrecking’ negations

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Railway workers are again walking out in a dispute over pay and job conditions (Pictures: LNP)

Trains have again ground to a halt as strike action continues in the UK today.

Thousands of railway workers are staging walkouts after talks failed to resolve a bitter row over pay, jobs and conditions.

People have been advised to only travel by train only if ‘absolutely necessary’.

Those travelling to Glastonbury Festival are among those affected – with strikes to wipe out more than half of the trains heading towards Somerset.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators are taking industrial action, crippling services across the UK.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has been accused of ‘wrecking’ negotiations, leading to a second day of strike action.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

‘Until the Government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.

‘We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.’

Paddington Station empty on the second day of national rail strikes (Picture: Ben Cawthra/LNP)
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch claims Grant Shapps ‘wrecked’ negotiations (Picture: PA)

Mr Shapps hit back, saying the RMT claim was a ‘lie’.

Trains will mostly be restricted to main lines today, with around half of the network closed.

Ahead of the strike, the Government announced plans to change the law to enable businesses to supply agency workers to plug gaps during industrial action.

Ministers pointed out that under current trade union laws, employment businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to cover for strikers, saying it can have a ‘disproportionate impact’.

The legislation will repeal the ‘burdensome’ legal restrictions, according the government.

They say it will give businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the services of employment businesses who can provide skilled, temporary agency staff at short notice.

Network Rail welcomed the move but Labour and unions condemned it as a ‘recipe for disaster.’

Empty platforms are seen at King’s Cross amid industrial action (Picture: PA)
Grant Shapps says union comments about ‘wrecked’ negotiations are a ‘lie’ (Picture: Reuters)

Meanwhile, members of the drivers’ union Aslef on Greater Anglia 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.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail had accepted a 7.1% pay offer.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations without agreeing a deal. We remain available for talks – day or night – and will do everything we can to avoid further disruption for our passengers.

‘As a result of this needless and premature strike, rail services will look much like they did on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and finishing much earlier in the evening (around 6.30pm).

‘We are asking passengers to please check before you travel, be conscious of when your last available train is departing, and only travel by train if necessary.’

Only around one in five trains will run today and mainly on main lines during the day.

Across the UK, passengers have been advised to only travel by rail if absolutely necessary, and to check the time of first and last trains.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson: ‘With passenger numbers still at only 80% of pre-pandemic levels the industry remains committed to giving a fair deal on pay while taking no more than its fair share from taxpayers.

‘We can only achieve that by making improvements – like offering better services on a Sunday – that reflect the changing needs of passengers so we can attract more back.’

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