Government told unions, lakhs of people will stop trains forever

Ministers fear industrial action will put a generation of commuters off traveling by train, as Britain enters its worst week of rail disruption for 30 years.

Millions of people have been advised to avoid using the railways as the country faces five days of industrial action, effectively delaying the return to offices by a week as an estimated 80,000 trains stand cancelled.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is staging two 48-hour walkouts on Tuesday and Friday, and drivers from the Asleaf union will strike on Thursday. Rail industry sources have claimed that 1.6 crore trips could be affected this week.

Ministers and industry are increasingly concerned that strikes are causing long-term damage to rail travel while costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds. Rail travel is already well below pre-pandemic levels as the number of people who are opting to work from home has increased.

A government source said: “It’s an act of self-harm – a generation of commuters will just write off the railways. We’re talking about permanent scars. The longer the attacks go on, the greater the risk.” “

There is no sign of resolution. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch accused the government of stalling a deal and said “unprecedented ministerial interference” was impeding train companies in negotiations.

He said: “The train companies say the government has tied their hands, while the government, which does not employ us, says it is up to the companies to negotiate with us. We are always happy to negotiate – We never refuse to sit at the table and talk – but these companies haven’t given us anything, and that’s unacceptable.

Commuters, including those returning to work after the festive break, have been warned to expect “significant disruption” as only a limited number of trains will run. They have been advised to travel only if absolutely necessary, allow extra time and see when the first and last trains leave. There may also be a disruption in services on 8 January as staff return to their duties.

On RMT strike days, about half of the network will be closed, with about 20 percent of normal services running. Services running will start later and end earlier than normal, with trains generally running between 7.30 am and 6.30 pm on the day of the strike.

A train drivers’ strike on Thursday will affect 15 operators and result in even fewer services, with some companies offering “very reduced” timetables.

Daniel Mann, director of industry operations at Rail Delivery Group, said: “No one wants to see these attacks go ahead and we can only apologize to passengers and the many businesses who will be affected by this unnecessary and damaging disruption. Would advise to travel only if absolutely necessary during this period, allow extra time and see when their first and last train leaves.

The hospitality industry on Monday called for an end to the strike as restaurants, pubs and bars braced themselves for an extra £200 million in earnings this week. The cancellation of train services is estimated to have already cost the industry £1.5 billion in sales over the festive period.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, which represents pubs, hotels and restaurants, said the latest industrial action would make city centers “ghost towns for another week”. Already beleaguered hospitality workers and businesses are vulnerable to the loss of crucial pre-Christmas sales. The sector has struggled to recover from Covid and these protracted rail strikes since May have made that recovery more difficult. enough is enough; This needs to end now.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, called on unions, rail companies and the government to find a solution to avoid “dealing another devastating blow to our already struggling industry”.

A rail industry source said: “With levels of discontent rising, strikes clearly threaten a permanent decline in train travel. It’s bad for the industry, the environment and our hardworking employees and the customers we depend on.” , they are likely to be more disillusioned and many will leave the Railways.

Unions yesterday rejected claims they were running out of money. The Public and Commercial Services Union told Times Radio that industrial action could continue until the summer.

Dave Penman, head of the FDA civil service union, said the government’s planned anti-strike legislation would have little effect given the scale of the turnout.

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