Rail passengers have been urged not to travel today unless “absolutely necessary” as members of four unions stage a 24-hour strike.
The latest strike by members of the Railway, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), Aslef, Unite and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is expected to cause the worst rail disruption of the year so far.
A reduced timetable shows that only 11% of rail traffic is still running today.
Trains will start later in the morning and finish earlier in the evening, and much of the network will have no trains at all.
Transport for London said some of its services will be affected as no service is expected on London Overground.
Passengers have also been warned that there will likely be disruption on Sunday morning when train staff return to work.
Delegates traveling to this weekend’s Conservative Party Conference and runners and spectators trying to get to London in time for Sunday’s start of the marathon will also face transport difficulties due to the strike action.
“Government must take the shackles off rail companies”
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch has apologized to those taking part in the marathon but said a break in a long-running dispute was “inevitable”.
He told Sky News: “I hope that the runners and the charity collectors and the people who want to raise money… I hope they get to the start line and I hope they can have a good day tomorrow.
“We don’t want to disturb them, but we need to keep this argument going on behalf of our members.”
He added: “Our action is very explicitly directed against the Tory party conference, which is also taking place tomorrow.
“So this dispute will continue and unfortunately there will be disruption.
“But if we can limit that by resolving the dispute, we will do that and get everyone back to normal.
“So we apologize for the disruption, but I’m afraid it’s inevitable in a long-term dispute.
“Whenever we strike, someone or some groups will be disturbed.”
Mr Lynch also described a meeting with incoming Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan as “positive” but stressed the need for a change in government stance.
He added: “Your predecessor, Grant Shapps, all he did was go into the media and berate unionists and myself individually and other union leaders, which is totally unhelpful.
“She went to the media last week and said she wanted to work constructively. I welcome that.”
Continue reading: Rail strikes – dates for disruptions in October and which routes are affected
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said its members were increasingly angry at the lack of progress in the long-running dispute over wages, jobs and working conditions.
“We do not want to go on strike, but this dispute will continue until the government unties the rail companies,” he said.
“The message I’m getting from my members is that they want more industrial action, so I think more strikes are inevitable.”
Another strike by Aslef is taking place on Wednesday, while RMT members are due to move out in Scotland on October 8th and again on October 10th.
Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said: “Despite our best efforts to compromise and find a breakthrough in talks, rail unions remain determined to continue and coordinate their strike action.
“This is only to ensure that 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.”
“Unnecessary and Harmful”
Daniel Mann, Director of Industry Operations at Rail Delivery Group, described the strikes as “unnecessary and harmful”.
“It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have been training for months to compete in the iconic London Marathon,” he said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Royal Mail staff will again picket outside Royal Mail delivery and sorting offices in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.
Read more: Royal Mail Strikes – When are staff going out and what is affected?
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) went on a 48-hour strike on Friday, hitting mail deliveries across the country.
Talks between the union and Royal Mail were held on Thursday but there was no sign of progress and the CWU plans to step up industrial action in the coming weeks.
A further 19 days of strikes were announced on different days in October and November, leading to a major escalation of the conflict.
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