Rail passengers face travel misery today thanks to even more strikes in long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions. Members of the drivers’ union Aslef walked out on Wednesday, forcing operators such as Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, Northern and Thameslink to cancel all their trains.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has called a strike on Friday, while another Aslef walk out will take place on Saturday.
Passengers are being advised to plan ahead and check the times of the first and last trains.
The strikes are affecting 15 train companies with services due to start later and finish much earlier than usual – typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has said services are severely reduced, with variations across the network and no trains at all in some areas.
Joining a picket line outside Newcastle station, Mr Whelan said: “There are no negotiations since they came out with yet another deal that contained all our ‘red lines’.”
He added: “If you spend months in a room, tell people things aren’t acceptable to you, then they produce a deal that contains those things then they are setting the deal up to fail.
“That is a deliberate act on behalf of both the Government and the people that we’re dealing with. They do not apparently want a resolution.”
Mr Whelan said: “They seem to want (a) thousands of percent productivity (increase) for a 20 percent pay cut.”
Aslef also starts an overtime ban at 15 train operating companies on Thursday which could cause disruption, especially on routes in and out of London.
The industrial action will affect football fans travelling to London for the FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.
Fans wishing to travel to the game by train from Manchester are being warned not to try and do so on the day.
There will be a limited service on Friday due to the RMT industrial action.
Industrial action on Saturday will also affect more than 100,000 people travelling to the annual Epsom Derby as well as fans attending Beyonce’s Renaissance world tour concert at Tottenham’s stadium.
Cricket fans travelling to watch the England v Ireland Test match at Lord’s will also be affected.
An RDG spokesperson said: “The upcoming rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute but will also impact those travelling to and from the FA Cup final and other events across the country, causing disappointment and frustration for tens of thousands of people.
“It will also inconvenience families who have been looking forward and have planned their half-term holidays. It will also further burden our people who have already lost thousands of pounds at a time of financial strain.
“We understand the impact of these strikes on individuals and businesses alike, and we can only apologise for this unnecessary and damaging disruption.
“While we are doing all we can to keep trains running, unfortunately, there will be reduced train services between Wednesday, May 31 and Saturday, June 3, so our advice is to check before you travel.
“Passengers with advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.”
The unions say they have not been given a pay offer it can recommend to their members. Officials say support for industrial action remains strong among workers as well as the public.
Aslef says train drivers have not had a pay rise for four years.
Both unions claim the Government is preventing the train companies making an acceptable offer, which ministers deny.
A DfT spokesperson said: “These strikes have been co-ordinated by union leaders to disrupt passengers in a week which will see major events such as the first ever all Manchester FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a number of concerts and festivals across the UK.
“Not content with impacting the hundreds of thousands of people who have looked forward to these events all year round, unions are also targeting their own members’ pockets by forcing them to miss out on pay every time they strike.
“The Government has facilitated a fair and reasonable pay offer, now union leaders must do the right thing and put this to their members.”