Almost one in three trains face cancellation on non-strike days over Christmas as trade unions exploit the rail industry’s dependency on staff volunteering to work overtime.
Rail chiefs are scrambling to understand the impact of an overtime ban imposed by the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) on thousands of workers at train operators.
Up to 30pc of train services are expected to be cancelled on non-strike days between December 19 and January 3 if workers stick to their hours.
Talks between train operators and the RMT will restart this morning after the union not only refused to call off industrial action last night before this morning’s deadline – but announced three additional days of strikes over Christmas.
The RMT announced an overtime ban last week alongside its formal notification of industrial action going ahead.
Industry sources said that train operators that run services with guards and in-house maintenance teams would be worst hit. Initial estimates are that they will only be able to run 70pc-80pc of normal capacity, they added. Officials are still finalising their assessment of the impact, which could be negligible on lines that do not have on-board guards, such as Southern rail and Thameslink.
An extra three days of strikes were last night announced for Dec 24, 26 and 27 as RMT chief Mick Lynch turned the screw on Transport Secretary Mark Harper for refusing to sign-off a better pay deal.
The new days come in addition to walkouts on Dec 13, 14, 16 and 17, as well as Jan 3, 4, 6 and 7.
Mr Lynch today admitted Christmas rail strikes will cause "real damage" when people are travelling to see family. He told the BBC: "We regret the inconvenience that we are causing but this inconvenience is being caused by the Government who are running the playbook and the strategy for the railway companies, and directing what is going on."
Strike timetables have become an increasingly well-rehearsed process. But the fallout from an overtime ban plunges rail chiefs further into the unknown.
It has emerged that former Prime Minister David Cameron watered down anti-union laws after striking a deal with trade unions in return for campaigning against Brexit.
Rishi Sunak is racing to bring in anti-union laws that will allow bosses to bring in agency staff to undermine strike action. Mr Cameron agreed to shelve similar plans in 2016, the Sun reported.
Leaked documents showed Downing Street was willing to remove restrictions on "temporary/agency workers being hired during periods of industrial action… because of a deal between the Cameron government and a number of trade unions, to persuade them to campaign actively for Remain in the EU referendum."