London commuters face further headaches as weekend rail strike looms

·3 min read
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch (PA Wire)
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch (PA Wire)

Rail passengers faced further disruption on Friday because of a deadlocked dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Strike action on Thursday continued to have a knock-on effect on Friday morning, with severe delays reported on the Bakerloo Line and disruption on the Circle and Hammersmith & City Lines “because of a shortage of trains”, TfL said.

The London Overground was also part suspended between Romford and Upminster, Wandsworth Road and Clapham Junction whilst reporting severe delays on the rest of the line.

A quieter than normal Waterloo train station, in London, during a railway workers strike on Thursday (AP)
A quieter than normal Waterloo train station, in London, during a railway workers strike on Thursday (AP)

Only 60 per cent of trains were running – with many services ending early on Friday ahead of a third day of action on Saturday that will bring the network to a near standstill.

TfL has advised people not to travel before mid-morning “if possible”.

RMT members at Network Rail and 13 train operators are seeking a pay rise of about seven per cent and guarantees of no compulsory redundancies.

Network Rail has offered two per cent, plus two 0.5 per cent increments, in return for changes to working practices.

It came as the TSSA union announced a ballot of members on Greater Anglia trains, which runs services in and out of Liverpool Street station.

Members of the drivers’ union Aslef in Greater Anglia walked out on Thursday.

A separate pay dispute involving GMB and Unite members working as check-in and ground at British Airways is set to cause chaos at Heathrow airport at the start of the school summer holidays.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said it was prepared to continue industrial action “until a negotiated settlement is reached”.

Talks have been held throughout the week and will continue in the coming days, but there is little sign of a breakthrough.

Mr Lynch said the Government should “get out of the way” and allow unions top negotiate directly with the private train operating companies.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time last night, he said: “The companies have told me face to face they could achieve a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies”, but added they “are not being allowed to”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded the strikes a “terrible idea” and insisted there is “no point” having railways that are “so uneconomic” that ticket prices are prohibitive to passengers.

Speaking to reporters travelling with him in Rwanda, he said: “We’ve got to make the railways run economically for the very benefit of the railway workers themselves and their families.

“There’s no point having a railway system in this country that’s so uneconomic that you keep having to put ticket prices up and you have to drive more and more people off the railways.

“You can’t go on with practices like walking time with ticket offices that sell very few tickets. You need to modernise.”

Most train companies are running a significantly reduced timetable until Sunday. This includes South Western Railway and GoVia Thameslink Railways, even though its staff did not vote to walk out.

GTR, which runs Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and the Gatwick Express trains, said services would be “severely affected” and many stations and routes closed, due to the knock-on impact of the action by Network Rail staff.

The TSSA said the earliest strike action could take place on Greater Anglia services would be July 27.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Our demands are simple – pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.

“The alternative is a long-running summer of discontent across our rail network. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action which would bring trains to a halt.”

It comes as 1,000 British Airways workers are set to strike “likely during the peak summer holiday period”, according to the GMB union.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “With grim predictability, holidaymakers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways.”