Rail passengers face severe travel disruption over Christmas and New Year as workers stage a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January in a long-running dispute over jobs, wages and conditions.
The RMT union has revealed that more than 40,000 workers at Network Rail and 14 rail operating companies will stage a series of 48-hour walkouts.
Industrial action is due to take place during the key Christmas period, with members going out from 6:00 p.m. on December 24 to 7:00 a.m. on December 27. Most trains do not run on December 25 and 26 anyway, but those wishing to travel by train to see loved ones on either side of Christmas Day will be affected.
Other walkouts will then take place on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, 2023.
The RMT has also decreed a ban on overtime for its members on the entire rail network from December 18 to January 2.
Additionally, train drivers’ union ASLEF has since announced that its members will also strike over wages on Thursday, January 5, 2023, coming amid RMT walkouts to leave rail commuters stranded for five consecutive days.
ASLEF, which represents 96% of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales, announced that workers at 15 companies, including Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway and Great Western Railway, voted for the strike.
Commenting on the next installment of walkouts, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘We feel we have been forced to take this step due to government intransigence… We have been faced with an extremely detrimental and our members are simply not in a position to accept the changes that the companies have put on the table.
Mr Lynch previously said the union was ‘sorry to inconvenience’ the public this Christmas, but urged them to ‘direct your anger and frustration at the government and the railway employers during this final phase of ‘stock”.
Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said the union was “playing fast and free with people’s Christmas plans”, saying the latest strike dates “deliberately targeted vital engineering work to improve the railway”.
The effects of these strikes are now well established after a number of similar walkouts affected UK travelers over the summer and early fall; industrial action by around 5,000 Network Rail flagmen will mean half the rail network is closed, with much reduced service on the rest.
Non-union members and managers will allow a service to operate between 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on about half of the rail network.
Mr Shoveller said: “No one can deny the precarious financial hole the railway finds itself in. Hitting makes that hole bigger and the task of finding a solution that much harder.
“Only through a reform, which will not result in the loss of one’s job, can savings be made which can then be converted into an improved offer. And while progress has been made over the past two weeks, we still haven’t found that breakthrough.
“We won’t give up and hope the RMT comes back to the table with a more realistic appreciation of the situation.”
A Rail Delivery Group spokesman, representing rail operators, said: “We have made real progress over the past fortnight of talks and for the first time in months we can see the outlines of a credible agreement.”
Ongoing disputes relate to wages, working conditions and job security.
The RMT union says its average member earns £31,000 a year, “with much much less, and none have seen an increase in three years”. The RMT also says the dispute is about “the prevention of catastrophic outages that will directly impact maintenance and accessibility.”
The Independent approached the Department of Transportation for comment.