ail strikes could escalate if no deal can be agreed, the RMT’s general secretary has warned.
Mick Lynch said he can’t see Saturday’s strike being avoided as train passengers were urged to travel only if necessary today on the second day of RMT walkout on Britain’s railways.
Asked about the walkout on the weekend, he told Sky News: “It’s a tough job. It will take a lot of progress to get that strike off. I can’t see that happening today from where I am, but we will work constructively with the companies.”
The union confirmed industrial action would go ahead as planned after talks between the union, Network Rail and train operators hit a stumbling block once again on Wednesday afternoon.
At least 40,000 RMT members will picket amid an ongoing dispute over redundancies and real-term pay cuts. The railway will run at 20 per cent capacity, with many of the last inter-city trains set to leave in mid-afternoon.
The London Tube is mostly not affected though the new Elizabeth line and the London Overground, both of which use national rail lines, will be. Commuters are being told to complete their journeys on both lines by 6pm. Disruption is expected to continue into Friday.
Watch: Sadiq Khan discusses rail strikes during Mayors Question Time
Shapps accuses Khan of ‘misleading’ comment on TfL
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has accused the Mayor of London of making a "misleading" comment that there had been no engagement from his department over a long-term Transport for London (TfL) funding deal.
Mr Shapps said: "This is just another misleading claim from the mayor as he continues to bury his head in the sand and avoid taking responsibility for his own actions.
"After committing to explore a long-term settlement in February, TfL and the Mayor agreed to provide information that would sufficiently demonstrate that conditions outlined in the current settlement are on track.
“Despite the mayor repeatedly calling on the Government to deliver a long-term deal he has once again failed to fulfil his side of the bargain and provide the vital evidence required to progress talks.
“Thereby preventing a deal which would not only represent value for money for all taxpayers but deliver for London at this crucial time.
"Department for Transport officials have met TfL on a regular basis to try and agree this deal and the mayor is well aware of this, to suggest anything else is simply not true and an attempt to deflect from his inability to responsibly manage the capital's transport finances, despite receiving almost £5bn of Government bailouts."
Downing St calls on unions to stop strike ‘as quickly as possible’
The unions should call off the rail strikes "as quickly as possible", Downing Street has said, while saying it was up to them whether to go ahead with Saturday's action.
A No 10 spokesman said: "My understanding is there were talks between the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union) and Network Rail today.
"But what we want to see is for the unions to call off the strikes, to continue to negotiate and to come to an agreement with their employer.
"We don't want to see this strike action to continue for a moment longer than it has to."
Asked if this was possible before Saturday's strike, he said: "That's a question for the unions."
The Government has not been informed of any further rail strikes after this week, the official said.
Travellers urged not to book BA flight this summer
Travellers are not advised to book a British Airways flight this summer "at this stage", a GMB national officer said after BA workers based at Heathrow voted to strike in a dispute over pay.
Nadine Houghton told BBC Radio 4's PM programme: "I would imagine there will be action during the summer holidays".
Asked if she would book a flight in late July, August or early September, she replied: "Not at this stage".
She said the union's members have faced a 10% pay cut as a result of BA's "unethical approach during the pandemic".
"They want that pay to be reinstated".
British Airways responds to GMB strike
British Airways has responded to the news its staff at Heathrow Airport will strike.
A statement from the airine reads: “We’re extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action.
“Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4billion, we made an offer of a 10 per cent payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.
“We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team.
“We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”
BA workers to strike
British Airways workers based at Heathrow have voted in favour of strikes in a dispute over pay, the GMB and Unite unions announced.
Some 95 per cent of balloted staff voted in favour of a strike. Turnout was 81 per cent, the union said.
The move threatens to bring more disruption to travellers who have suffered months of delays at airports and flight cancellations due to staff shortages.
Rail strikes ‘crippling’ the UK, Sturgeon says
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the UK Government to have “respect” for workers by resolving the train dispute that is “crippling” the UK.
During First Minister’s Questions she said: “[Workers] are paying the price for Tory anti-trade union rhetoric, in fact, anti-trade unionism which I completely deprecate.
“We should respect public sector workers and we should seek to negotiate fair resolution to disputes, particularly at a time of inflation – inflation being exacerbated in the UK by the folly of Brexit.
“So let me repeat the call today for the UK Government to start doing their job to get round the table to bring a resolution to this.”
Pictured: RMT union members picket in the rain outside King’s Cross station
Theatre, live music and hospitality suffering amid strikes
Nighttime industries are suffering in the wake of rail strikes and the Covid-19 pandemic, the Nighttime Industries Association (NITA) said.
Rail strikes have had a devastating impact on the theatre, live music and hospitality industries, it said, with 81 percent of London theatregoers choosing to use public transport and a similair proportion of hospitality customers.
There is an estimated loss of up to 40 percent in trade from the strikes.
Simon Thomas, executive chairman of Leicester Square’s Hippodrome Casino, said: “First Covid, then omicron, now we’ve got the RMT variant. The West End was well on the mend and this strike threatens to push thousands of businesses back into intensive care.”
Johnson: ‘The strikes are a terrible idea'
The Prime Minister has said rail strikes this week are “unnecessary” and a “terrible idea”.
Speaking from Rwanda, Boris Johnson said people “should get around the table and sort it out”.
He claimed the Government has invested more in railways than any previous Government in the last 50 years.
“We have got to have some sensible reforms and that is things like reforming ticket offices – I did a huge amount of that when I was running London.
“It is stuff that maybe the union barons are more attached to perhaps than their workers.”