Rail bosses 'don't know how long' strikes will go on for as travel chaos hits country

With another round of strikes plunging the country into transport chaos and neither the Government or rail unions seemingly budging, ITV News' Libby Wiener has the latest

Rail bosses have said they "don't know how long" strikes will go on for as passengers face fresh travel chaos due to thousands of workers walking out on strike, crippling services across the country.

Disputes over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions are continuing, with further days of industrial action planned next month on the railways and London Underground.

Only around one in five trains will run on Wednesday, on around half the network, with some areas having no trains all day.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, said he does not know how long the strikes could go on for and that train operators and Network Rail need to come up with "feasible" offers

He added: “I don’t know how long they’ll go on. When we get a negotiated settlement that our members support then the strikes will cease.

“But at the moment we’ve got a big gap to bridge, and we’re not near that at the moment so the strikes will go on until we get a settlement.”

However, Mr Lynch added that the union is not currently “rushing into more strikes”.

“We’ve named some more action during August, and we’ll review that when we talk to the companies and we talk to our members… we’re determined to get a settlement if we can,” he added.

Picket lines were being mounted outside train stations as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators went on strike.

Passengers are being urged to only travel by train if they must, and if it is necessary, allow extra time and check when their last train will depart.

Trains are expected to be disrupted on Thursday morning with a later start to services as employees return to duties.

With around one in five trains running across the country due to the strikes, ITV News' Louise Scott and Sangita Lal have the latest on industrial action and customers

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) announced a strike by its members at Avanti West Coast on Wednesday, while members of the drivers union Aslef at seven companies will strike on Saturday.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch added that union members were more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions.

“Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.

“In fact, Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action."

Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association and the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on the picket line outside London Euston. Credit: PA

Mr Lynch added: “The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions.

“RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.

“The government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”

Grant Shapps says in his three years as Transport Secretary there has not been a single day when unions have not been in dispute by threatening or taking industrial action

“Today, union bosses are once again trying to cause as much disruption as possible to the day-to-day lives of millions of hardworking people around the country,” he said.

“What’s more, it has been cynically timed to disrupt the start of the Commonwealth Games and crucial Euro 2022 semi-finals, in a deliberate bid to impact the travel of thousands trying to attend events the whole country is looking forward to.

“This country’s taxpayers stumped up £600 per household to ensure not a single rail worker lost their job during the pandemic, but many of those very same people will be forced into losing a day’s wages through no fault of their own but because of stubborn union leaders’ refusals to modernise."

Credit: PA

He added: “Union bosses will claim they’re willing to do a deal but how can anyone take them seriously when, earlier this month, the RMT dismissed a Network Rail offer worth 8% over the next two years without even consulting their members.

“Unfortunately, it’s too late to call off today’s damaging strikes but I urge the RMT, and indeed all unions, to stop holding the country to ransom with the threat of further industrial action and get off picket lines and back round the negotiating table. If not, we risk passengers turning their backs on the railway for good.”

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes. Credit: PA

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), said that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “appears to have gone on strike himself”.

“My message to Grant Shapps is very simple: either you get out of the way, or you get involved directly in talks. I don’t care which one it is, but unless he does that we’ve got no way to reach a settlement.”

Mr Cortes added: “Grant Shapps appears to have gone on strike himself - he’s not come anywhere near the negotiations."

Shadow transport minister Sam Tarry joined striking workers on the picket line at Euston Station in London, in defiance of Sir Keir Starmer’s orders to stay away.

A move that Grant Shapps predicted would lead to Keir Starmer sacking one of his most senior MPs.

Mr Tarry told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If we don’t make a stand today, people’s lives could be lost.

“Some of the lowest-paid workers are on strike today in the rail industry, safety critical workers, workers who make sure our railways get people to work and do so safely.

“It can’t be accepted anymore, that people just have to accept that inflation is out of control. The Government’s doing nothing on the cost-of-living crisis.”

Asked whether he expected to be sacked by Sir Keir, Mr Tarry said: “I’ve no idea what Keir will decide to do but I know this - if Keir was in government right now, this dispute wouldn’t be happening.”

He added: “I have absolutely 100% confidence that any Labour Party MP would be in support of striking workers who have given up a day’s pay, a week’s pay or even longer.”

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Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “We are incredibly disappointed that the RMT and Aslef leadership are continuing with this action, disrupting the summer plans of millions – including those attending the Commonwealth Games.

“While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption to passengers, our advice is to only travel if it is necessary, and if you are going to travel, please plan ahead.”

Members of the RMT and TSSA will launch coordinated strikes on August 18 and 20, while the RMT announced a strike on London Underground on August 19.

Passengers in Scotland have faced some of the worst of the disruption with no services operational north of the central belt.

There were a limited number of trains running on key routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh; Edinburgh and Bathgate; Glasgow and Hamilton/Larkhall; and Glasgow and Lanark.

Scotland’s transport minister, Jenny Gilruth said the UK Government needs to “inject the political willing” to resolve disputes across the rail network - but she insisted there is a distinction between the current strikes and the action taken by ScotRail staff in the last few weeks.