Rail strikes are set to spark Bank Holiday travel hell today, disrupting a swathe of major events such as Notting Hill Carnival and Reading and Leeds festival.
Around 20,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at 14 train operators will walk out, crippling services across England, as the deadlocked dispute over pay, jobs and conditions continues.
RMT members will also walk out on Saturday, September 2 and ASLEF members will strike on Friday, September 1 followed by an overtime ban the next day.
The RMT action will also disrupt a number of other events including Manchester Pride, the York Races, England’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Fiji, and Creamfields and Victorious festivals.
The walkout will not only disrupt travel today but will also affect services tomorrow.
Around 20,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at 14 train operators will walk out today crippling services across England
A huge swathe of major events are set to be disrupted, including Reading and Leeds Festival
Notting Hill carnival in central London will also be affected by the disruption
The ongoing row between the unions and the Government has now entered its second year.
Rail operating unions have said they have made no progress adding that they are ‘hamstrung’ by the Government refusing to give them a mandate to make a revised pay offer.
The rail unions are also embroiled in a dispute Over controversial plans to close railway ticket offices, which have also angered passenger groups and those representing elderly and disabled passengers.
More than 460,000 people have responded to a consultation on the plans and a protest is being held opposite Downing Street on August 31, a day before the consultation ends.
Trains will start later on Saturday and finish earlier – and some areas will have no services.
Passengers took to social media to blast the disruption – with one branding unions ‘selfish and self-defeating’.
Those hoping to travel by car have been warned there could be chaos on the roads, with long delays expected on major routes as people escape for the long weekend.
According to a survey carried out by the RAC, around 14.4 million leisure trips are planned for between Friday and Monday, which is the last bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland until Christmas Day.
This up more than 1.8 million compared with last year.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The Government is not serious about settling this dispute which is leading to further disruption for passengers.
‘Rail operators are not being given a mandate to make a new offer that we can put to members in a referendum to settle this dispute.
‘Meanwhile, our campaign to save ticket offices will reach new levels with a rally outside Parliament on August 31, where we will tell ministers in no uncertain terms that ticket offices must be kept open and our communities preserved.
‘Our industrial campaign will continue as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement, and to save as many ticket offices as possible.
‘RMT members remain committed to winning a pay rise, securing their future employment and maintaining good working conditions.
‘They have shown tremendous resolve in the face of a government that is playing politics and refusing to do a deal.’
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the dispute is now political and train drivers are determined to carry on taking industrial action.
Some train firms have advised people to travel on Saturday only if necessary.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: ‘The industry will be working hard to keep as many services running as possible.
The strike will affect those travelling to events such as the Notting Hill Carnival in London and the Reading and Leeds festival (pictured)
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said rail staff were offered a 13% pay rise which was ‘blocked without a convincing explanation’ by the RMT executive. File photo of train passengers
‘There is no question the strikes called by the RMT and Aslef leaderships are deliberately designed to target passengers who want to enjoy various sporting events and festivals during the bank holiday, and at the end of the summer holidays, disrupting their plans, hurting local economies and forcing more cars on to the road.
‘This, despite having the RMT having repeatedly refused their memberships a vote on offers of up to 13% for the lowest paid over two years, which could easily settle this dispute.
‘There will unfortunately be some reduced services on August 26, Friday and September 1 and 2. As the level of service varies across the country, our advice is to check before you travel and follow the latest travel information, and passengers with advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.’
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘The Government has played its part to try and end these disputes by facilitating fair and reasonable pay offers, but union leaders refuse to allow their members to vote on them.
‘By cynically targeting the bank holiday weekend, and driving more passengers away from train travel when our railways are already losing £10 million a day even without industrial action, the RMT’s strikes are damaging its own industry’s future.’