Train services continue to be disrupted on Wednesday by this week’s rail strikes as talks resume to settle a bitter dispute over jobs, wages and working conditions.
Fewer than one in five trains ran on Tuesday after members of Network Rail (NR)’s Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) and 13 train operators staged the first of three strikes, which were to be followed by strikes on Thursday and Saturday.
RMT members of the London Underground also went on strike on Tuesday.
The joint action caused travel chaos across the UK, with longer journeys and congested roads as people switched to cars or buses to get to work.
The chaos will continue on Wednesday as only 60% of trains are running, largely due to a delay in the start of services as signallers and control room staff are not working night shifts.
The RMT will meet with NR and the rail companies on Wednesday for another attempt to break the deadlock.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said turnout at Tuesday’s picket line was “fantastic” and exceeded expectations in the union’s campaign for job security, defense of working conditions and a decent pay rise.
He said: “Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in seeking a settlement to this dispute.
“RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are fed up with a mix of big corporate profits and government policies slashing their wages and working conditions.
“Now is the time to stand up and fight for every railroad worker in this fight that we will win.”
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: “These are much-needed reforms that will modernize the railway and make it sustainable for passengers and taxpayers alike.
“Unions have shut down large parts of the rail network, hit local businesses and unfairly cut people off from hospitals, schools and jobs.
“However, initial data shows that unlike before, many people have the option to work from home, so we don’t even have to rush onto the streets as transport has gone online instead, meaning unions are not have an overall impact that they might have hoped for.”
The union has been asked by Network Rail to take part in formal consultations next month on the introduction of “modern working practices”.
Network Rail’s Tim Shoveler said the changes would mean “abandoning outdated work practices and introducing new technology”.
He added: “We expect this to eliminate around 1,800 jobs, the vast majority of which will be lost to voluntary attrition and natural wastage.”
According to an opinion poll, most adults consider the rail strikes to be justified.
A Savanta ComRes poll of over 2,300 people found that 58% believed the industrial action was justified.
Younger adults aged 18-34 (72%) and Labor voters (79%) were more likely to think the strikes were justified than their older counterparts aged over 55 (44%) and Conservatives (38%).
Three out of five respondents indicated that they generally support the principle of industrial action, while only 35% were generally opposed to it.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has alerted the public to more strike action as Downing Street said it would “not give in” to rail union demands.
Mr Johnson warned commuters they must be ready to “stay the course” and urged rail bosses and unions to agree on a modernization package to secure the industry’s future.