Rail passengers are STILL set for travel chaos today with ‘extremely limited’ services – despite strikes being called off at the 11th hour
- Passengers are being told to travel only if necessary as widespread train cancellations remain in place
- Strike action on November 5, 7, 9 and limited strikes on November 6 have all been called off ahead of talks
- RMT boss Mick Lynch said the train operators had finally ‘seen sense’ – but warned strikes could continue
The UK’s rail service are severely disrupted across the country today despite an 11th-hour decision to suspend strikes while negotiations between the RMT union and train companies continue.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) were due to stage walkouts in the coming few days in a long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
Workers were planning to walk out today, Sunday 6, Monday 7, Wednesday 9 of November, with Tube staff due to join them later in the week. The strike on Sunday was due to be train managers only.
But passengers will still face problems travelling as train operators say the change was announced too last-minute to reinstate normal services.
RMT strikes on November 10 affecting the London Underground and Overground services are still set to go ahead in the ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.
Last night the RMT said it had secured ‘unconditional’ talks with Network Rail and the promise of a pay offer from the train operating companies, meaning 40,000 workers are no longer set to strike.
But RMT boss Mick Lynch acknowledged train strikes could continue past Christmas if a deal is not found, The Mirror reports.
It comes as new Transport Secretary Mark Harper confirmed he was happy to meet with trade unions, a marked departure from his predecessor Grant Shapps’ approach.
Widespread strikes involving 40,000 workers had been planned for today, as well as November 5, 7 and 9 on national rail services
Travellers are being warned to still expect a severely reduced timetable on Saturday due to the last minute announcement yesterday
Many train platforms and rails will remain empty today as train operators only partially restore services
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the threat of continued strike action had made rail operators ‘see sense’
Signs on London’s transport network warned of disruption to National Rail services and TfL services
Avanti West Coast – No changes made, expect severe disruption
c2c – No changes made, expect severe disruption. Only 15 percent of normal service will be running
Caledonian Sleeper – No changes made, expect disruption. No services on November 7 or 9
Chiltern Railways – Much reduced service still in place on November 5, 6 and 7. Services on November 9 under review
CrossCountry – Limited service on November 5 and 7 – expect disruption. Services on November 9 under review
East Midlands Railway – Significantly reduced service on November 5 and 7 – expect disruption. Services on November 9 under review
Gatwick Express – No changes made, expect severe disruption
Grand Central Rail – No services on Saturday, extremely limited services on Monday. Services on November 9 under review
Great Northern – Significantly reduced service on November 5 and 7 – expect disruption. Services on November 9 under review
Great Western Railways – Very reduced service on November 5 and 7 – expect disruption, some areas will have no service. Services on November 9 under review
Greater Anglia – No change to services on Saturday. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Heathrow Express – No services on Saturday. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Hull Trains – No services on Saturday. Normal service resumes on Monday
LNER – Significantly reduced service on November 5 and 7 – expect disruption. Services on November 9 under review
London Northwestern Railway – Limited service on November 5 – expect disruption. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Lumo – Reduced service on Saturday and Sunday due to engineering works. Full service expected from Monday
Merseyside Rail – Services to now run every 30 minutes on Saturday. Full service expected from Monday
Northern Rail – No changes to November 5 or 7. Services on November 9 under review
ScotRail – Very reduced service on Saturday. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
South Western Railway – Severely reduced service on November 5 and 7. Services on November 9 under review
Southeastern – Partially restored service on Saturday. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Southern – No changes made, expect severe disruption
Stanstead Express – No changes to November 5 – expect severe disruption. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Thameslink – No changes made, expect severe disruption
Transpennine Express – Services will only run between Huddersfield and York on November 5 and 7, expect severe disruption. Services on November 9 under review
Transport for Wales – No changes, expect severe disruption
West Midlands Railway – Severely reduced service on November 5. Services on November 7 and 9 under review
Mr Harper said: ‘The negotiations are obviously going to take place between the unions and the employers: Network Rail and the train operating companies.
‘But I think it’s helpful for ministers to meet trade union leaders and to listen to their concerns.
‘I’m very happy to do that and my department will be reaching out to those trade union leaders in due course.’
The RMT said last night it had made rail bosses ‘see sense’, but added that ‘if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will’.
The union said the dispute remains ‘very much live’ and it is continuing its re-ballot of members to secure a fresh mandate for action with the result due on November 15.
But transport chaos is still expected on Saturday after the last-minute cancellation left train operators unable to reinstate a full timetable at such short notice.
The planned strikes were part of the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and working conditions between rail workers and their bosses.
According to the RMT, rail workers have been offered an eight percent pay rise over the next three years, but it pointed out this is a real-terms pay cut.
Inflation is already at ten percent and is expected to peak as high as 15 percent next year.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The threat of strike action and our strongly supported industrial campaign has made the rail employers see sense.
‘We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intensive talks.
‘Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, a decent pay rise and good working conditions.
‘Our re-ballot remains live and if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will.’
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, welcomed the announcement but said it had come too late to reinstate services on Saturday, warning they will remain ‘extremely limited’.
Special strike timetables will remain largely in place for Monday but operators hope that services will be back to normal after that.
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: ‘It is positive that the RMT leadership have stepped back from the brink and called off their strike action.
‘Our advice remains to please check before you travel and on Saturday and Monday only travel by rail if necessary.
‘We remain committed to intensive negotiations to agree the reforms needed to improve reliability, deliver a pay rise for our people and get the industry back on a sustainable financial footing.’
Some rail operators are partially restoring services today but others say disruption will continue well into next week.
CrossCountry trains confirmed a severely limited service would remain in place on Saturday and Monday, but that it was reviewing its timetable for November 9.
Avanti West Coast said it is ‘not possible’ to make more major changes to its timetable at such short notice, but said it was ‘pleased’ strike action had been called off.
In a statement it said: ‘We are pleased that the RMT has called off its strike action for 5, 6, 7 and 9 November but, due to the short-notice, it’s not possible to make further major changes to our timetable. The TSSA union has also announced strike action on 5 and 9 November.
‘On 5, 6, 7, and 9 November, customers should expect our existing timetable to be reduced significantly and those services that do run are expected to be very busy.
‘We strongly advise you to only travel by rail if absolutely necessary on 5, 6, 7, and 9 November.
‘If your journey is essential, please plan ahead as your entire journey will likely be severely disrupted. The days after industrial action will also be affected.’
It means Avanti trains from the Midlands to London will only run once an hour and some stations will not be serviced at all.
Merseyrail said its services will be partially reinstated on Saturday as a result of the strike being called off.
But Southwestern Railway also said it was ‘too late’ to change its timetable for Saturday, although added it is looking into options to reinstate some services next week.
Rugby fans travelling to Cardiff for the Wales v New Zealand game will be among those hit by Saturday’s disruption.
The RMT said Network Rail had originally declared discussions and consultations closed and was intent on imposing changes to maintenance without agreement with the union.
‘They have now rowed back and will continue discussions on the basis that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’.
‘This takes away the reason for the current phase of action and means talks can continue without pre-conditions unilaterally set down by the company,’ said the RMT.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: ‘This is a positive development for passengers up and down the country but the very late notice means, unfortunately, there will still be significant disruption across the network tomorrow and into Monday.
‘We encourage unions and employers to continue their negotiations and calling off these strikes has given those talks a better chance of success.
‘It is vital, for passengers and workers alike, that all parties continue to work together and deliver a modern railway we can all be proud of.’
The TSSA announced it was calling off its planned rail strikes on November 5, 7, 8 and 9 after receiving an invitation to ‘intensive talks’ from the Rail Delivery Group.
TSSA members were due to take strike action in five different rail companies on different days over the period.
Interim general secretary Frank Ward said: ‘We have always said that strikes are a last resort, and we are glad to finally be invited to the first set of formal talks with train operators in months.
‘However, it is ridiculous that the invitation was only issued less than six hours before our strikes were due to begin.
‘This will cause rail travel disruption across the weekend, as train companies won’t have time to reinstate cancelled services.
‘This would have been completely avoidable if the Rail Delivery Group and their paymasters at the Department for Transport and Transport Secretary Mark Harper had invited us to talks sooner.’
Ministers are under deepening pressure to solve the rail strikes crisis as analysis showed walkouts have blown a £600million hole in the economy since the summer.
TSSA has also cancelled its strike for Saturday as it continues its talks with National Rail.
Both the RMT and Aslef are to ballot their members for a further strike mandate that would allow for repeated industrial action until July 2023.
This has raised fears of strikes over the busy Christmas period, which sees thousands of Brits travelling home to be with families for the holidays.
Meanwhile the next phase of Elizabeth line services will be launched on Sunday, with the lines from Reading, Heathrow, and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels of the new cross-London route.
While the launch will not be taking place on a strike day, services will start later than usual and passengers are encouraged to check on the TfL website for the latest timetable information.
Small businesses ‘going bust’ due to strikes
Small business owners are struggling to survive as postal workers are set to walk out and amid the looming threat of rail strikes.
Matt Harris, 49, who runs wine bars Planet Of The Grapes and Fox Fine Wines in London, said that strike action is just ‘another dagger’ for already struggling hospitality businesses.
‘The repercussions of Covid were bad enough and we are still paying back debts from it,’ Mr Harris said.
‘We start the week at a loss, and have to work hard to hit break-even point. Every single hospitality business that I have spoken to is paying their HMRC tax bills in staggered, delayed payments.
‘And that is basically telling you that they are all, essentially, bust.’
Mr Harris said previous industrial action and the threat of further strikes is crippling his business: ‘I support the fact that workers should get proper and fair pay.
‘But the problem is, the way they are fighting it is causing more harm to other working people than it is to the bosses and the Government.
‘I think they should give grants to any business affected by strike action. And they should have tax relief going forward so that businesses can survive what will be a torrid few years ahead.’
Royal Mail workers are also due to walk out on two of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Jessica Taylor, 36, who is a textile artist and illustrator and runs her own business, Loadofolbobbins, said postal strikes can be a ‘nightmare’ but stressed it is important that workers receive pay rises.
‘Anything affecting the postal service can be a potential nightmare for me if I have orders that need to be delivered,’ Ms Taylor said.
‘There’s always a chance for customers to get upset about delays or lost items.’
But it is in the interests of small businesses to support strikers because pay rises will help boost consumer spending, Ms Taylor said.
‘What is so often forgotten when things like this are happening is that all the workers striking during this action are all my potential customers, so if their wages rise in a meaningful way it means they have more money to spend with small businesses like mine.
‘As a result, it means that I would be able to help create a healthy and stable economy.
‘How many multimillion-pound chief executives do you think I get shopping at my business?’
Ms Taylor added that it is a scary time for small business owners: ‘It has definitely been a lot tougher over the last year and a bit, and people are understandably spending less.
‘People are genuinely scared about just being able to afford day-to-day essentials.
‘I’m lucky that most of what I make is not particularly resource heavy in terms of energy, but suppliers are raising costs and for fellow businesses with small brick and mortar shops, or studios with kilns for example, it is a really scary time.
‘I have already seen a number make the tough call to shut up shop altogether.’
Earlier this week, leading hospitality trade bodies warned that a third of Britain’s pubs, restaurants and hotels could go bust by the end of the year as the cost of running their business becomes impossible.
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